0856 GMT March 19, 2019
“In fact, NATO borders are getting closer to Russia, not the opposite,” Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Lavrov also rejected NATO claims that Russia is conducting “dangerous activities” near the borders of its member states, saying this is an “unscrupulous attempt to distort the reality.”
“NATO military infrastructure is inching closer and closer to Russia’s borders. But when Russia takes action to ensure its security, we are told that Russia is engaging in dangerous maneuvers near NATO borders,” he added.
The top Russian diplomat further noted that NATO’s deployment of anti-missile systems and troops near his country’s frontiers have already violated the basic 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.
Moscow pays no attention to NATO’s soothing words, but rather reacts to the alliance’s military build-up near Russia’s borders, he went on to say.
Russia and NATO have been locked in a deepening dispute. Tensions surged earlier this month after the US guided-missile destroyer USS Cook sailed close to a Russian naval base in the Baltic Sea, an action which resulted in the scrambling of Russian jets that buzzed the ship.
American officials denounced the move and said the Russian bombers were flying so close that they caused “wakes in the water.”
Lavrov, however, described the actions of the Russian warplanes as completely legitimate, emphasizing that they decided to take a look at the vessel “from a safe distance.”
NATO has stepped up its military build-up near Russia’s borders since it suspended all ties with Moscow in April 2014 after the Crimean Peninsula re-integrated into the Russian Federation following a referendum.
Moscow has on many occasions slammed NATO’s expansion near its borders, saying such a move poses a threat to both regional and international peace.