Stoltenberg: Bulgaria's NATO Membership Does Not Hamper Relations with Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attends a NATO Force Integration Unit inaugurational event in Vilnius, Lithuania, 03 September 2015. Photo: EPA

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Bulgaria's NATO membership is not an obstacle to the country's relations with Russia and does not pose a threat to Moscow.

The former Prime Minister of Norway pointed to the development of his country's relations with Russia in an interview for Bulgarian National Television (BNT) on Friday.

According to him, the relationship with the then Soviet Union and later Russia improved after the accession of Norway to NATO, Oslo managing to maintain constructive dialogue and cooperation with Moscow.

The secretary general believed that there was no contradiction between strong defence, collective defence and political dialogue.

NATO and its allies need a strong defence and a predictable foreign policy, but at the same time it was important to maintain political dialogue and contacts with Russia.

In a similarly-worded statement in August, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that Bulgaria's membership to NATO did not mean an end to its relationship with Moscow.

Stoltenberg also commented the function of the NATO Force Integaration Units (NFIUs), which were opened in Bulgaria and five other member countries on the Alliance's eastern flank on Thursday.

He assured that the coordination centre, will plan and help with the organisation of military drills and will assist in case there is need for the deployment of reinforcements.

According to him, everything NATO was doing was in the name of defence and in line with the international commitments on strengthening the safety of the allies, including Bulgaria.

As regards the cuts to the defence budget of some member countries, Stoltenberg said that Bulgaria reaffirmed its strong commitment to the Alliance during his visit to Sofia in...

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