November 18, 2009 / 3:46 PM / 10 years ago

NATO critical of Russian war games near Poland

BRUSSELS, Nov 18 (Reuters) - NATO countries voiced concern on Wednesday at Russian and Belarusian exercises held near the Polish border in September, saying they were at odds with improved relations with Moscow.

Ambassadors from the 28 NATO states meeting in Brussels expressed concerns about the large scale of the exercises and a scenario that envisioned an attack from the West, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

"There was the general sense that the political message of the exercise was incongruous with the general improvement in political relations and practical cooperation which is under way between NATO and Russia," Appathurai said.

He said there was also concern that NATO observers had not been invited to view the exercises.

In Washington this month Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski drew attention to the exercises near Poland’s border and said NATO forces should be placed in central Europe to underscore its value to the alliance.

Russian and Belarusian officials said the exercises were aimed at drilling the two nations’ armed forces to be able to rebuff an attack by an unnamed aggressor and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was "deeply bewildered" Sikorski’s comments. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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