Putin aide: Trump could build con­fi­dence with NATO pull­back

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS -

AP: VLADIMIR PUTIN’S spokesman says one way Don­ald Trump could help build con­fi­dence with Rus­sia af­ter he be­comes pres­i­dent would be to per­suade NATO to slow down its expansion or with­draw its forces from Rus­sia’s bor­ders.

Dmitry Peskov said in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press that this “would lead to a kind of de­tente in Europe”.

But un­for­tu­nately, he said, Rus­sia now sees “NATO’s mus­cles ... get­ting big­ger and big­ger and closer and closer to Rus­sian bor­ders”.

At a NATO sum­mit in July, the West­ern al­liance said it is build­ing up po­si­tions in Poland, Es­to­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia in re­sponse to what it sees as es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions with Rus­sia. The United States is send­ing 1,000 troops to Poland next year.

Trump has praised Putin as a strong leader and sug­gested that the US could aban­don its NATO com­mit­ments, which in­clude mutual defence in case of at­tack.

The pres­i­dent-elect says NATO was cre­ated to con­front a threat – the Soviet Union – that no longer ex­ists and has called the al­liance “ob­so­lete” and a bad deal for Amer­ica. He ar­gues that the United States gets too lit­tle out of decades-old se­cu­rity part­ner­ships like

NATO, which is an­chored in Europe but tra­di­tion­ally led by the United States.

Peskov, who is con­sid­ered one of Putin’s clos­est aides, called NATO “an in­stru­ment of con­fronta­tion”.

When its forces are be­ing en­larged and de­ploy­ing closer and closer to Rus­sia’s bor­ders, he said, “we do not feel our­selves safe”.

“Of course, we have to take mea­sures to counter,” Peskov said.

As “con­fi­dence-build­ing mea­sures” to re­duce US-Rus­sia ten­sions in a Trump pres­i­dency “let’s say slow down or with­drawal of NATO’s mil­i­tary po­ten­tial from our bor­ders po­ten­tially would ease this sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

It’s highly un­usual for Peskov to travel abroad sep­a­rately from Putin, but he is chair­man of the board of the Rus­sian Chess Fed­er­a­tion and came to New York to at­tend Fri­day’s open­ing of the world cham­pi­onship match be­tween Rus­sia’s Sergei Karyakin and Nor­way’s Mag­nus Carlsen. The or­gan­is­ers in­vited Trump to at­tend but he did not show up.

On other global is­sues, Peskov said in an in­ter­view last Thurs­day at the venue for the cham­pi­onship that there is no pos­si­bil­ity of “a break­through” to end the more than five-year Syria con­flict un­less the so­called mod­er­ate op­po­si­tion is sep­a­rated from “ter­ror­ist groups” in­clud­ing the Nusra Front and Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists.

The US was sup­posed to do this un­der a Rus­sia-US-bro­kered cease­fire, but Peskov said Washington, un­for­tu­nately, was un­able to do so. The cease­fire col­lapsed in Septem­ber as the Syr­ian army launched an of­fen­sive on rebel-held east­ern Aleppo un­der the cover of Rus­sian war­planes.

AN­OTHER CHANCE

Peskov said if the cease­fire agree­ment is im­ple­mented, “there will be an­other chance for a break­through”.

“We are still con­vinced that with­out real in­ter­ac­tion, real co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Moscow and Washington, it will be very hard to make fur­ther steps in a political set­tle­ment in Syria,” Peskov said. “Un­for­tu­nately, we don’t have co­op­er­a­tion there.”

Peskov said Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov and US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry are in con­stant contact, “but un­for­tu­nately, some­times it seems that not ev­ery­one in Washington wants a real break­through on the road ... to political set­tle­ment”. He re­fused to say which US of­fi­cials

Moscow be­lieves are block­ing progress to end­ing the con­flict.

Rus­sia, mean­while, is con­tin­u­ing to sup­port the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment and army “be­cause we have only two al­ter­na­tives ... ei­ther we have Pres­i­dent (Bashar) As­sad in Damascus or we have Nusra and Is­lamic State”, Peskov said.

Putin’s spokesman ad­dressed an­other is­sue which sparked a se­ri­ous down­turn in US-Rus­sian re­la­tions and US sanc­tions — Rus­sia’s an­nex­a­tion of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, which led to a con­flict in east­ern Ukraine that has killed more than 9,600 peo­ple. A 2015 agree­ment has helped re­duce the scale of fight­ing, but clashes have con­tin­ued and ef­forts to ne­go­ti­ate a political set­tle­ment have stalled.

Peskov dis­puted call­ing Rus­sia’s ac­tion in Crimea “an­nex­a­tion”, in­sist­ing it is a re­gion of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion and stress­ing that “no one in Rus­sia — never — will be ready to start any kind of dis­cus­sion about Crimea”.

Asked how the is­sue could be ad­dressed dif­fer­ently in a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, Peskov said, “We un­der­stand that it will take time for our part­ners in Europe, for our part­ners here in the United States to un­der­stand that. We are pa­tient enough to wait un­til this un­der­stand­ing oc­curs here in Washington, in the States, in Europe.”

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin

US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.

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