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NATO’s deputy Secretary General condemns Russia’s actions in Black Sea area

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, April 25
The Deputy Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Alexander Vershbow, has stated that Russia continues pressuring its neighbors and is trying to create challenges for the alliance’s unity.

The NATO’s top official stated this last week at the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria Conference on Black Sea Security hosted by Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.

Howver, Vershbow claimed that NATO knew how to respond to the challenges peacefully.

In his speech, Vershbow said Russia’s actions were ‘of course of paramount concern’, and named the illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea coupled with Russia's major militarisation of the occupied peninsula, including the modernisation and enlargement of the Black Sea Fleet.

He stressed the actions ‘gravely destabilised the security landscape” in the Black Sea area.

“At the same time, the Kremlin’s underhanded involvement in the wider region – including in ‘frozen’ conflicts in NATO’s partner countries of Georgia and Moldova – threatens to prolong instability indefinitely,” he added.

Vershbow stated Russia’s strategy in the Black Sea was part of a global effort– an effort which stretched from the high Arctic to the deserts of Syria, and which threatened to challenge the alliance's unity, as well as its territorial integrity.

“Our response therefore has two key elements: to strengthen our defence and deterrence capabilities; and to seek to engage in dialogue with Russia with a view to demonstrating that we are united and resolute, but determined to reduce the risk of conflict through transparency and predictability,” Vershbow said, and stressed the Alliance was not interested in wars and military confrontations.

Vershbow said NATO continued to provide support to its partners in the region – in particular, Ukraine and Georgia, both of whom continued to face ‘significant pressure from Russia’.

“The Alliance is engaged with both countries through a series of partnership instruments, and we are helping, where we can, to bolster their political independence and territorial integrity,” Vershbow said.

He continued on to say that NATO was closely cooperating with the Ukrainian military to strengthen maritime and airspace security while a wide range of measures were included in the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package.

Vershbow added NATO was supporting closer coordination between the Georgian Ministries of Interior and Defence in order to strengthen the capacity of the Georgian Coast Guard.