Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Saturday that strains between Russia and the West have plunged the world into a “new Cold War”.
With tensions high over the Ukraine conflict and Russia backing the Syrian regime, Medvedev said: “All that’s left is an unfriendly policy of NATO against Russia”.
“We can say it even more clearly: We have slid into a new period of Cold War,” he said, speaking at the Munich Security Conference.
“Almost every day we are accused of making new horrible threats either against NATO as a whole, against Europe or against the US or other countries.”
Medvedev criticized the expansion of NATO and EU influence deep into formerly Soviet-ruled eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War.
“European politicians thought that creating a so-called belt of friends at Europe’s side, on the outskirts of the EU, could be a guarantee of security, and what’s the result?” he said. “Not a belt of friends but a belt of exclusion.”
He added that “creating trust is hard … but we have to start. Our positions differ, but they do not differ as much as 40 years ago when a wall was standing in Europe.”
Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated plans for massive military build-up on its eastern flank – the largest since the Cold War – to counter “Russia’s actions.” He added that relations with Russia would be based upon “defense and dialogue.”
Terrorists are gaining influence and benefiting from Russian-Western discord, Medvedev told the gathering.
“Terrorism is a challenge to the whole of civilization: we must not divide terrorists into friends, enemies, extremists or ‘moderates,’” he said.
“I think Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] has to be grateful to my colleagues, some Western leaders who disabled such cooperation [between intelligence services],” Medvedev said.
He cited cases such as the bombing of the Russian airliner over Sinai, the terror attacks in Paris, London, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq and many other countries, as well as public beheadings and brutal acts of violence, as clear evidence that international terrorism respects no borders.
Addressing Russia’s anti-IS deployment, Medvedev said the air operation is not targeting civilians. “No one has yet presented any evidence of our air strikes hitting the civilian population.”
Stop bombing Syrian civilians: France
Depite Russia’s assertion that it has never bombed civilians in Syria, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called on Russia to stop bombing civilians in Syria, saying this was crucial for achieving peace in the country.
“France respects Russia and its interests … But we know that to find the path to peace again, the Russian bombing of civilians has to stop,” Valls said at the Munich conference.
Sanctions over Ukraine to remain: US
Sanctions against Russia will continue until it implements all aspects of the Ukraine peace agreement reached in Minsk last year, US Secretary of State John Kerry said.
“Russia has a simple choice: fully implement Minsk or continue to face economically damaging sanctions,” he said at the Munich coference.
Russian cruise missile ship to Syria
Amid Medvedev’s Cold War warnings, Russia has dispatched a new ship armed with cruise missiles to the Mediterranean, the navy announced Saturday, as reports said it is bound for Syria.
The Zelyony Dol, a patrol ship armed with Kalibr cruise missiles that only joined the Black Sea fleet in December, departed for the Mediterranean, the Black Sea fleet said in a statement.
RIA-Novosti news agency further quoted a security source in Crimea — where the Black Sea fleet is based — saying that the ship is bound for Syria and may take part in Russia’s campaign to support the Syrian army.
“The goals of the ship are not public but considering that it is carrying long-range cruise missiles, its participation in the military operation should not be excluded,” the source was quoted as saying just a day after world powers agreed to cease hostilities in the war-ravaged country.