NATO summit poland.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JACEK TURCZYK POLAND OUT

NATO leaders gathered in Warsaw this week determined to show unity and resolve in the face of an ever-more defiant Russia, but disagreements about how best to handle their giant neighbour bubbled just below the surface.

Relations between the Western military alliance and Moscow have hit a post-Cold War low following Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its support for separatists in Ukraine.

Both sides have been flexing their military muscles ever since, accusing each other of sabre-rattling and provocations.

In Warsaw, NATO leaders layed the blame at Moscow's feet.

"Russia's aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory, ... are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the alliance, have damaged euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace," they said in the communique issued at the end of their talks on Saturday.

The 28 leaders cleared the way for military reinforcements all along NATO's eastern flank, with four rotational battalions headed next year to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland - the countries that have felt most threatened by Russia's actions in Ukraine.

"This finally shows ... that NATO went out from their offices and paper plans to the field and became a real defence organization," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite jubilantly said in Warsaw.

But others have called for restraint, amid fears that the tensions will boil over into military incidents such as the 2015 downing of a Russian jet by NATO member Turkey at the Syrian border.

"For France, Russia is not an enemy, is not a threat," French President Francois Hollande said in Warsaw.

"What we shouldn't do now is further inflame the situation with loud sabre-rattling and war cries," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the German tabloid Bild last month.

Germany, the EU's leading power, has been among those pushing for NATO to rekindle dialogue with Russia. Ambassadors from the alliance are scheduled to meet their Russian counterpart Alexander Grushko in Brussels on Wednesday to inform Moscow about the decisions taken at the Warsaw summit.

"We do not want a new Cold War," Stoltenberg said. "We will continue to strive for a meaningful and constructive dialogue with Russia."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said there was "very strong consensus" at the summit dinner on Friday on this, but also on the fact that "we need to have that dialogue from a position of unity and strength over the issue of Ukraine."

"Boundaries are being redrawn in Europe by force, by one power, and Europe and NATO must stand strong against that," he added.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who held talks with the NATO leaders at their summit, said there was "full support demonstrated by all member states," notably when it comes to the question of sanctions on Russia.

The European Union - most of whose members also belong to NATO - this month prolonged by six months its economic sanctions on Moscow. The bloc's leaders are expected to discuss the future of their relationship with Russia later this year.

Steinmeier said in Warsaw that he does not expect the NATO dialogue with Moscow to be "easy." The summit will not improve the atmosphere, not least because it was held in a country that used to be under the Soviet Union's sphere of influence.

"Almost every NATO summit is seen by Russian diplomats and official media as a hostile event," said Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank. "The agenda of the 2016 NATO summit should provoke the Kremlin's anger."

Former Soviet president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday accused NATO of war-mongering.

"From a Cold War NATO is going over to the preparations for a hot [war]," Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency. "They are only talking about defence, but essentially they are making attack preparations."

Baunov, however, predicted that the tensions between Moscow and the West would eventually cool down.

"Both sides - Russia and NATO - feel that ... some detoxification of relations should be undertaken," he said. "There is a general feeling that the confrontation should not be heightened further."

Latest news

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Barcelona police open fire on stolen lorry laden with gas canisters

Security forces in Barcelona opened fire on a stolen lorry laden with gas canisters to bring a rampage through the city to an end, police in the Spanish city said on Tuesday.

Stuttgart to issue bans on high-polluting diesel vehicles from 2018

Most diesel vehicles will be banned from roads in the southern German city of Stuttgart during times of heavy pollution, a bid to clean up the city's air, the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg decided Tuesday.

Slovenia welcomes construction of LNG terminal off Krk, but won't join for now

Slovenia is not planning for now to connect to the floating LNG terminal to be built off Omisalj on the northern Croatian Adriatic island of Krk, but welcomes any additional energy source, Slovenian media say.

German court rules against automatic refugee status for Syrians

Syrians fleeing the multi-sided civil war in their home country do not have an automatic right to refugee status under the Geneva Convention, a German court ruled Tuesday.

Business conference pushes for intensified privatisation in Croatia

As long as the state authorities pay high bills, this means that the government has not yet seriously delved into the privatisation of state-run companies, although their sale can alleviate the pressure on the state budget, a business conference in Zagreb heard on Tuesday.

HND condemns judge's verbal tirade against reporters

The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) on Tuesday condemned a verbal tirade by Sibenik Municipal Court Judge Maja Supe against reporters in the courtroom, claiming that they were not educated to report on trials and that they had called her the "most corrupt judge in the country."

Mosque attended by Berlin attacker Amri closed, police confirm

The mosque in Berlin attended by Berlin truck attacker Anis Amri has been closed. The mosque is permanently closed, read a note in German and Turkish on the door of the prayer rooms which was seen on Tuesday.

German army to expand to almost 200,000 soldiers

Germany's Bundeswehr, plans to expand its number of professional soldier to 198,000 by 2024 because of increasing duties, the German Defence Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Fired Audi engineer says he was 'sacrificed' for emissions scandal

A fired Audi engineer was "sacrificed" amid the ongoing VW group diesel emissions scandal, his lawyer claimed in court on Tuesday as he contested his client's dismissal.

French police arrest three over suspected terror plans, source says

French authorities have arrested three men in relation to suspected plans to carry out attacks in the country or travel to Syria, a source close to the investigation told dpa on Tuesday.

Bosnia Council of Ministers blocked due to motion to review Serbia's genocide acquittal

A meeting of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina that was to be held on Tuesday has been cancelled at the request of the Serb ministers, further deepening the political crisis in that country following announcements that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be requested to review its judgement of Bosnia's suit against Serbia for genocide.

UN: Trial against Gaddafi regime was unfair, flawed

Former members of the Gaddafi regime did not get a fair trial in Libya because the proceedings were so seriously compromised, the United Nations criticized in a report on Monday.

Croatia remains Bosnia's biggest trade partner in 2016

Croatia is still the most important foreign trade partner to Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to figures released by the BiH Chamber of Foreign Trade which show that in 2016 the two countries' trade had gone up.