NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was in Berlin yesterday to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel one more time before she retires, and to address the German Atlantic Association “NATO Talk” Conference 2021. During that speech he suggested, apparently in response to an audience question, that should the German government that’s expected to replace that of Merkel decide to opt out of NATO’s nuclear sharing program, then the estimated 20 B61 nuclear gravity bombs that are currently stored at the German Büchel air base could be moved to another country—closer to Russia. “Of course, it’s up to Germany to decide whether the nuclear arms will be deployed in this country, but there’s an alternative to this; the nuclear arms may easily end up in other European countries, including those to the east of Germany,” he said.
Stoltenberg didn’t bother to venture a guess as to how Russia might respond to such a thumb-in-your-eye provocation.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to earlier comments by Stoltenberg demanding “transparency” from Russia. She branded NATO claims as ludicrous that the alliance observes Russia’s desire to use its force and military capabilities against neighboring countries. “I would like to remind the NATO secretary general that in modern history exactly NATO member countries have been a source of aggression that has claimed millions of lives. NATO’s militarism and imperial ambitions have triggered dozens of armed conflicts, devastated states and led to the plight of civilians and millions of refugees,” she asserted. “However, these things somehow do not concern the alliance and this bloc is not going to bear responsibility for its crimes.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, whose portfolio includes Russia’s relations with Europe and NATO, again made it clear that Russia is prepared to talk and negotiate, according to TASS. Grushko pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposed post-INF missile moratorium remains on the table. “The President’s initiative on reciprocal moratoriums is still in force. Moreover, it has become more topical in the current conditions. And we are convinced that healthy forces, including within NATO, who see the pernicious effects on European security of the prospects for the turning of our continent into a Cold War-style arena of confrontation, will draw conclusions and finally demonstrate the political will for continuing the dialogue on this topic,” he said. “We have repeatedly said we are ready to negotiate all other aspects linked with the implementation of this initiative, including the use of transparency and verification mechanisms.”