Tass
Russian military opposed to Nato expansion -- Manilov

MOSCOW, March 11 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Defense Ministry still views NATO's plans of eastward expansion as a threat to national security, General Staff First Deputy Chief Valery Manilov said at a news conference on Saturday.

He said the Russian military leadership "has not changed its position regarding the plans of NATO enlargement".

He said the stance of the military command "remains unaltered and has a principled character".

"We state that NATO's enlargement to the east envisages moving the block's military component close to borders of Russia and poses a potential threat to our country," Manilov said.

"We were and remain opponents of NATO's enlargement, and will act toward this threat with means and methods that are inherent in our national policy and possibilities," he said.

Manilpov said "these measures may be asymmetrical, but in any case they will be effective".

He stressed that Russia does not plan to build up troop groupings at its borders.

"We do not plan this so far, we realistically assess the situation, take into account the reforming of NATO groupings in Central and Eastern Europe," Manilov said.

He went on to say that Russia could reconsider its part in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation.

Manilov said "it is necessary to make correctives to the Kosovo settlement operation".

"If this does not happen, we shall reconsider the need for our participation. This is a very serious question," he said.

Asked whether Russia could withdraw its peacekeepers from Kosovo if the U.N. Security Council's Resolution 1244 remained unfulfilled, he said "this is possible".

"Of course, we will struggle to the end and will use all political and diplomatic resources in order to rectify the situation in Kosovo. Russia has sufficiently tangible support from other participants in the KFOR," Manilov said.

"But if we see that all our efforts do not yield the result and the matter goes as far as the dismembering of Yugoslavia and this happens 'under the flag of KFOR', we will not take part in it," he said.

Manilov said Russia's withdrawing its peacekeepers from Kosovo "will not be a sign of weakness".

"In order to make a compromise or an uncompromising decision, strength and will are needed, as well as realisation of one's possibilities".

"When we took the steps that led us to participation in the peacekeeping operation, it was a sign of strength and wisdom, and not of weakness. The possible decision to stop our participation also will be a sign of strength," Manilov said.



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