NATO deputy secretary: Russia is 'highly irresponsible'

NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow | Courtesy of NATO

NATO's deputy secretary general said on Monday that Russia is increasing its nuclear presence in light of the West's reaction to its conflict with Ukraine.

"Russia’s modus operandi in the Ukraine conflict is often described as 'hybrid warfare': a mix of regular and irregular forces, support for separatists, cyber attacks, and propaganda," Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said. "But the conflict also has a (weapons of mass destruction) dimension. Russia has stepped up its nuclear exercises and integrated a nuclear component into conventional exercises. Russian bombers have been flying closer to Allied borders. And the Russian leadership has been boasting about the development of new nuclear weapons. Perhaps this is mostly rhetoric, but it is highly irresponsible."

Speaking at a NATO conference on weapons of mass destruction in Qatar, Vershbow said NATO must rethink its approach to Russia.

"In Europe, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has violated a rule that we thought was firmly established in Europe: that the sovereignty of independent nations is sacrosanct, and that borders must never be changed by force," Vershbow  said. "Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its continuing destabilization of Eastern Ukraine have put the European security system – and all the rules and agreements that underpin it – under severe strain."

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