* Russia says wants answers on NATO troops in eastern Europe
* NATO chief: Russia is violating international commitments
* Russia's Lavrov says force will withdraw after war games
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW, April 3 Russia has recalled its top
military representative to NATO for consultations, Russian news
agencies reported on Thursday, widening the rift between Moscow
and the Western alliance over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's
Russia's action last month has caused the deepest crisis in
East-West relations since the Cold War, leading the West to
impose sanctions and stirring fears that President Vladimir
Putin has territorial designs beyond Crimea, a Black Sea
peninsula with its Russian-majority population.
The recall to Moscow of General Valery Yevnevich, a typical
form of diplomatic protest, follows a decision by NATO this week
to suspend cooperation with Russia in response to its occupation
of kraine's Crimea Peninsula.
"We don't see an opportunity to continue military
cooperation as usual with NATO," RIA news agency quoted Deputy
Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov as saying. "We have decided to
recall the chief Russian military representative at NATO ... to
Moscow for consultations."
NATO simply said it took note of the Russian decision.
Earlier, Russia said it wanted answers from NATO on its
activities in eastern Europe after the Western military alliance
promised to beef up defences for its eastern members.
That drew a strong reaction from NATO chief Anders Fogh
Rasmussen, who accused Russia of "violating every principle and
international commitment it has made, first and foremost the
commitment not to invade other countries".
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said after talks with
Rasmussen in Brussels that allies had accepted Estonia's offer
of its Amari air base as a second location for NATO fighter
planes to patrol the air space over the three Baltic states. The
fighters have until now been based in Lithuania.
NATO has ordered military planners to draft measures to
reassure nervous Eastern European countries - which were under
Moscow's domination until the end of the Cold War more than two
decades ago - but stopped short of calls by Poland to base more
DIFFERENCES OVER 1997 TREATY
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said any increase in
NATO's permanent presence in eastern Europe would violate a 1997
treaty on NATO-Russian cooperation.
"We have addressed questions to the north Atlantic military
alliance. We are not only expecting answers, but answers that
will be based fully on respect for the rules we agreed on,"
Lavrov told reporters at a briefing with his Kazakh counterpart.
Rasmussen said he had not received any questions from Russia
and said Russian "accusations" were "just propaganda and
Foreign ministers from the 28-nation, U.S.-led NATO met this
week to discuss responses to Russia's Crimea takeover, including
sending NATO soldiers and equipment to allies in eastern Europe,
holding more exercises, ensuring NATO's rapid-reaction force
could deploy more quickly, and reviewing NATO's military plans.
Military planners have been asked to come back with detailed
proposals by April 15.
Rasmussen said what NATO was doing was in line with the 1997
agreement with Russia in which NATO agreed to defend eastern
European members through reinforcements rather than by
permanently basing substantial additional combat forces there.
"In the same document, Russia pledged to respect territorial
integrity, sovereignty and political independence of other
states and refrain from the threat or use of force, and that is
exactly what Russia is not doing," he said.
The United States and other NATO allies have already
responded to the crisis by offering more planes to take part in
regular NATO air patrols over the Baltic States, which were once
Soviet republics. The United States has beefed up a previously
planned training exercise with the Polish air force.
NATO military chiefs are concerned that an estimated 40,000
Russian forces near the Ukrainian border may signal plans by
Putin to move beyond Crimea into eastern and southern Ukraine,
which also have significant Russian-speaking populations.
Russian forces seized Crimea after mass protests toppled
Ukraine's pro-Russian president. Moscow denounced this as a coup
driven by right-wing extremists and said it reserved the right
to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine, but denied having any
intention to move into other areas of the ex-Soviet republic.
Lavrov responded to criticism over the size of the force
along Russia's border with Ukraine by saying Moscow had the
right to move troops on its territory and they would return to
their permanent bases after military exercises.
(Reporting by Thomas Grove, Alissa de Carbonnel and Alexei
Anishchuk in Moscow and Adrian Croft in Brussels, editing by