Russia says Germany's suspension of military ties 'not constructive'

MOSCOW Sun Mar 23, 2014 10:19am EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian defense ministry on Sunday said Germany's decision to suspend military contacts over Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region would harm cooperation, including on Afghanistan, and warned France against taking the same tack.

In light of the West's diplomatic showdown with Moscow over Ukraine, Germany halted all defense-related exports to Russia on Friday. France's defense minister said it would pull out of joint military exercises but made no comment about exports.

"This is negating all the positive trends achieved in recent years, including on cooperation on Afghanistan ... We see this decision as not constructive," Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov was cited by the state RIA news agency as saying of Germany's announcement.

Anotov said Germany had made its decision "under pressure", suggesting the United States was steering Paris and Berlin toward taking a harder line toward Russia.

"It's obvious that the notorious 'Atlantic solidarity' led our French and German partners to make strong statements on Russia," he said.

On Friday, after President Vladimir Putin signed laws completing Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula, the German government ordered defense contractor Rheinmetall to halt delivery of combat simulation gear to Russia.

The ministry spokesman said this was a "one-off" case, but that future deals would also be blocked.

France's suspensions of military cooperation with Russia could also jeopardize contracts to supply Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a decision whether to go ahead with the Mistral deal would not be taken until October.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)