MOSCOW -- With NATO leaders expected to endorse a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe this week, a senior Russian military official said Tuesday that Moscow would revise its military doctrine to account for “changing military dangers and military threats.”
In an interview with the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, the official, Mikhail Popov, deputy secretary of Russia’s military Security Council, called the expansion of NATO “one of the leading military dangers for the Russian Federation.”
Popov said Russia expected that leaders of NATO would seek to strengthen the alliance’s long-term military presence in Eastern Europe by establishing new military bases in the region and by deploying tanks in Estonia, a member of NATO that borders Russia.
“We believe that the defining factor in our relationship with NATO remains the unacceptability for Russia of plans to move military infrastructures of the alliance to our borders, including by means of expanding the bloc,” Popov said.
Russian foreign policy has long focused on NATO as a threat. Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said a recent initiative by the Ukrainian government to shed its nonaligned status and to join NATO could scuttle efforts to negotiate a peace settlement between Kiev and separatists in southeast Ukraine.
Before a NATO summit meeting begins in Wales on Thursday, President Barack Obama is expected to visit Estonia to highlight the United States’ commitment to the military alliance and the alliance’s determination to protect all 28 members from aggression - from Moscow or elsewhere.
On Tuesday, an aide to President Vladimir Putin of Russia played down but did not deny a report that Putin had told José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, “if I want, I will take Kiev in two weeks.”
The comments came as Barroso asked Putin about Russian troops in Ukraine. Putin, who has repeatedly denied having any troops there, then turned “to threats,” Barroso told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
Yuri V. Ushakov, an aide to Putin, said Barroso’s recounting of a private conversation was “inappropriate.”
“Whether these words were said or not, in my viewpoint, this quote given is taken out of context and it had absolutely different sense,” Ushakov said.
On a nationally televised call-in show in April, Putin said, “When the infrastructure of a military bloc approaches our borders, we have grounds for certain apprehensions and questions.”
“We wanted to support the residents of Crimea, but we also followed certain logic: If we don’t do anything, Ukraine will be drawn into NATO sometime in the future,” Putin said, adding that “NATO ships will dock in Sevastopol, the city of Russia’s naval glory.”
Popov, the military adviser, also said that Russia believed it had sufficient forces in Crimea “to repel an invasion from a potential aggressor on the territory of the republic.”
“Crimea today is the territory of the Russian Federation, and armed aggression against Crimea will be seen as aggression against the Russian Federation with all of the resulting consequences,” Popov said.