Russia in 'new Cold War' with West
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a meeting of top defence officials, diplomats and national leaders that sanctions imposed after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and new moves by NATO "only aggravate" tensions.
"NATO's policies related to Russia remain unfriendly and opaque, one could go so far as to say we have slid back to a new Cold War," Medvedev said.
"On almost a daily basis, we're called one of the most terrible threats either to NATO as a whole, or Europe, or to the United States."
The comments came after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the Munich Security Conference that "Russia's rhetoric, posture and exercises of its nuclear forces are aimed at intimidating its neighbors, undermining trust and stability in Europe."
All of NATO's moves had been made in response to Russian aggression, Stoltenberg said.
"NATO does not seek confrontation and we do not want a new Cold War, but we had to respond to the Russian military build-up, which we have seen over several years," he added.
|NATO does not seek confrontation and we do not want a new Cold War, but we had to respond to the Russian military build-up
"Not only a military build-up, but the fact that Russia is willing to use military power to change borders in Europe as they have done in Ukraine."
The annual conference in Munich is one known for frank talk among top officials.
Defence against Russia
Speaking after Medvedev, US Secretary of State John Kerry fired back that Europe and the United States would continue to "stand up to Russia's repeated aggression" and noted that in addition to a joint focus on Ukraine, Washington plans to quadruple spending to help European security.
That will allow the US to maintain a division's worth of equipment in Europe and an additional combat brigade in Central and Eastern Europe.
|The United States would continue to stand up to Russia's repeated aggression
- US Secretary of State
NATO also announced this past week it would add new multinational reinforcements to beef up defences of front-line alliance members most at risk from Russia.
"Those who claim our trans-Atlantic partnership is unravelling or those who hope it might unravel, could not be more wrong," Kerry said.
NATO Secretary-General stressed the need for dialogue, but also defended NATO's move to strengthen defences, including moving more troops and equipment to countries bordering Russia.
Stoltenberg said at a summer summit in Warsaw he expects NATO members "to decide to further strengthen the alliance's defence and deterrence."
But security doesn't come for free, and as tensions increase then we have to adapt," he added.
"When tensions went down after the end of the Cold War there was a peace dividend and defence spending went down," Stoltenberg said.
"But when tensions are increasing, then we have to again increase our defence investments," he added.
Expressing the concerns of some Eastern European countries, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told the conference that Moscow is already "demonstrating open military aggression in Ukraine, open military aggression in Syria."
"It's nothing about cold," she said, referring to Medvedev's Cold War comments.
"It is already very hot," Grybauskaite said.
|Moscow is already demonstrating open military aggression in Ukraine, open military aggression in Syria
- Lithuanian President
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko blasted Russia's actions in both Ukraine and Syria, saying they are "a demonstration that we live in a completely different universe" from Russia.
The main danger to Europeans now is an "alternative Europe with alternative values" such as isolation, intolerance and disrespect for human rights, Poroshenko said.
"This alternative Europe has its own leader. His name is Mr Putin," Poroshenko added.
Stoltenberg, in his conference address, underlined that NATO's deterrent also included nuclear weapons, saying "no one should think that nuclear weapons can be used as part of a conventional conflict, it would change the nature of any conflict fundamentally."
Medvedev scoffed at what he said was a suggestion that Russia may use nuclear weapons in a first strike.
"Sometimes I wonder if it's 2016 or if we live in 1962," he said, referring to the year of the Cuban missile crisis.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov weighed in later, saying "it seems that old instincts are still viable."
"Cliches of ideological confrontation are returning into common use, the conceptual basis of which ceased to exist a quarter of a century ago," he said.
|Cliches of ideological confrontation are returning into common use, the conceptual basis of which ceased to exist a quarter of a century ago
- Russian Foreign Minister
"We need to agree on reforms of the world order, because such NATO-centred self-conceit, which reflects political short-sightedness, causes severe damage to the search for responses to common real challenges," Lavrov added.
Medvedev also called for sanctions on Russia imposed after it annexed Crimea to be lifted, saying they are "a road that leads nowhere."
He suggested the West would only harm itself if it did not lift the sanctions soon.
"The longer the sanctions continue, the more chances fade for Europeans to keep their positions in Russian markets as investors and suppliers," he said.
"That's why one has to act quickly."
If Russia wants an end to sanctions, it has the "simple choice" of fully implementing the Minsk peace accord agreed upon last year, Kerry said.
"Russia can prove by its actions that it will respect Ukraine's sovereignty, just as it insists on respect for its own," Kerry added.