Spain, Britain call on NATO to look at Russian threat from Africa

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MADRID, May 25 (Reuters) - Russia's expanding influence and activity in Africa pose a "worrying" threat to the security of NATO countries along with its invasion of Ukraine and must be addressed by the military alliance, the Spanish and British defence ministers said Wednesday.

At a joint news conference in Madrid, Spain's Margarita Robles said the expansion of operations by the Russian state and Russian private security companies such as the Wagner Group in countries like Mali and Libya was "very clear" and accused them of fomenting organised crime and terrorism.

"NATO cannot remain indifferent in this situation," she added.

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Britain's Ben Wallace, in Madrid for a bilateral meeting ahead of Spain's hosting of a crunch NATO summit in late June, said rising instability coupled with hunger in Africa could significantly impact Europe.

"If (Russia) can use migrant flows as a weapon at one end of Europe, they can certainly use it at the other," he said.

He was referring to allegations by Western governments that in last year's European Union border crisis, Russia supported ally Belarus in encouraging thousands of migrants fleeing war in other parts of the world to cross towards Poland in retaliation for EU sanctions.

Wallace echoed Robles' call for NATO to include defence of its southern flank in its new strategic concept, its basic military doctrine which will be drafted at the Madrid summit.

"NATO's strategic concept has to involve the whole of NATO, all the territory it covers through its partnership," he said.

"Russia's army is already exhausted, broken, we see it bringing equipment out of retirement. The Russian navy will be more of a threat, Vladimir Putin will use his navy as a way of intimidating his enemies and that means he will be in other parts including the southern flank," he added.

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Reporting by Aislinn Laing; editing by Andrei Khalip and Jonathan Oatis

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