July 11 (Reuters) – The Kremlin accused NATO on Tuesday of treating Russia as an “enemy” and said it would closely monitor any decisions taken at the Western military alliance’s two-day summit and respond with unspecified measures to protect its security. .
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier that he expected his leaders to meet in Vilnius to send a “positive message” to Ukraine about its path to eventual NATO membership.
Moscow cited NATO’s expansion in the east as a major factor in its decision to invade Ukraine nearly 17 months ago.
“They (NATO leaders) view Russia as an enemy and adversary. It is in this spirit that the discussions will take place (in Vilnius),” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a regular news briefing.
“We are watching this carefully because much of what has been said will be subject to in-depth analysis in order to take measures to ensure our security,” he added.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in separate remarks, said Moscow was taking “appropriate” measures in anticipation of further NATO expansion. He did not elaborate.
At the summit in the Lithuanian capital, NATO leaders are set to agree on the alliance’s first comprehensive plans since the end of the Cold War to defend against attack from Moscow.
Diplomats also said differences were narrowing between the allies over Ukraine’s bid to join NATO, even though Kiev will not be invited to join while war is still raging on its soil.
“It is possible that this issue (Ukraine’s accession to NATO) is very dangerous for European security … and therefore those who will make the decision should be aware of this,” Peskov said.
He said that European leaders did not seem to understand that moving NATO’s military infrastructure towards Russia’s borders was a mistake.
Amid a flurry of statements by top Russian diplomats ahead of the Vilnius summit, Konstantin Gavrilov, Russia’s chief security negotiator based in Vienna, accused the United States of fueling the conflict by pumping weapons into Ukraine.
In an interview with the state-run RIA news agency, Gavrilov said Europe would be the first to face “catastrophic consequences” if the war escalated further. He did not specify what those consequences would be.
Peskov said Sweden’s expected accession to NATO would have “negative repercussions” for Russia’s security and that Moscow would have to respond. Finland and Sweden both applied to join NATO last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Helsinki officially joined the alliance in April.
Sweden is now poised to become the 32nd member of NATO after Turkey dropped its opposition on the eve of the summit.
Peskov played down the significance of the Turkish move, saying that Ankara must fulfill its obligations as a member of NATO. He added that Russia would continue to develop its relations with Turkey, which unlike its allies in NATO refused to impose economic sanctions on Moscow because of the war in Ukraine.
Reporting by Reuters. Written by Gareth Jones. Editing by Lincoln Feast, Alex Richardson and Alexander Smith
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