More than a dozen European countries have expressed willingness to engage in dialog with Russia toward reaching an arms control deal, potentially upsetting planned US-led military build-ups near Russian borders.
Germany and ۱۵ other countries are pressing for the arms control deal with Russia, German newspaper Die Welt said on Friday.
The paper quoted German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as saying that, in spite of a loss of trust between Europe and Russia over the Ukrainian conflict, the two sides needed to talk to each other more often.
“Europe’s security is in danger,” Steinmeier warned, in a reference to the danger from a potential arms race with Russia. “As difficult as ties to Russia may currently be, we need more dialog, not less.”
He criticized Russia’s “annexation” of the Crimean Peninsula, which used to be a territory of Ukraine before it voted in a March ۲۰۱۴ referendum to join Russia. He said the Ukrainian conflict risked stirring an arms race in Europe.
Steinmeier, who has been nominated by the Social Democratic Party for president, first floated the idea of an arms control deal with Russia in August to avoid an arms race and the escalation of tensions in Europe following the developments in Ukraine.
The ۱۵ other countries that have since sided with the initiative are France, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Portugal, according to Die Welt. All of them are members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The rotating presidency of the OSCE is currently with Germany.
The countries plan to issue a joint statement on Friday and will meet again on the sidelines of a December ۸-۹ ministerial-level meeting in Hamburg, Germany.
A potential arms control deal with Russia is likely to disrupt NATO plans to deploy forces and military hardware to Baltic states and Poland.
US officials have voiced skepticism about the idea, citing what they say is Russia’s failure to abide by existing agreements and treaties.
Steinmeier also drew criticism from the US and NATO officials in June after warning that Western military maneuvers in Eastern Europe amounted to “saber-rattling and shrill war cries,” which he said could increase tensions with Moscow.
NATO’s planned enhancement of its military presence in the Baltics and Poland, near Russia, which is aimed at military force projection in the Black Sea and Eastern Europe, is likely to saturate the region with US arms and missiles.
In response, Moscow’s planned deployment of its S-۴۰۰ air missile defense system along with the Iskander ballistic missile system in Kaliningrad, near the border with NATO members Lithuania and Poland has drawn criticism from Washington.
Moscow has rejected Washington’s allegations that the move would destabilize security in Europe, arguing that it is in fact leading to an arms balance in the region.