German minister warns NATO of 'saber-rattling' against Russia

June 18, 2016 18:40


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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has criticized NATO's decision to stage military maneuvers in eastern Europe, warning such moves could worsen tensions with Russia.

His comments reflect growing divisions within Germany's ruling right-left coalition over policy towards Moscow. Steinmeier's Social Democrats (SPD) generally back a more conciliatory stance towards Russia than Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc.

"What we shouldn't do now is to inflame the situation by loud saber-rattling and shrill war cries," Steinmeier told Bild newspaper in an interview to be published on Sunday.

"Whoever believes that symbolic tank parades on the alliance's eastern border will bring more security is mistaken," Steinmeier said. "We are well-advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation."

Steinmeier did not make clear which maneuvers he was referring to but NATO has just completed a large-scale, 10-day military training exercise in Poland involving more than 20 NATO and partner countries. Germany was among those taking part.

The exercise, involving 30,000 troops, was part of NATO's drive to reassure east European nations rattled by Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea pensinsula and its support for rebels opposed to Kiev's forces in eastern Ukraine.

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