Ball in Moscow's court to improve ties with NATO, says Germany

·2-min read

BERLIN (Reuters) -NATO is ready for dialogue with Russia, but the ball is in Moscow's court, Germany said on Tuesday, two weeks before leaders of the military alliance are due to meet in Brussels with ties between Moscow and the West at post-cold war lows.

"Our message remains clear: We are prepared for dialogue, and we have made proposals, but the key to a better relationship lies clearly with Moscow," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters before a video call with his NATO counterparts.

He was echoing remarks by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who on Monday underscored the alliance would continue to seek dialogue with Moscow, while also exercising troops for defensive purposes.

"We are there to prevent conflict and war. But the best way of doing that is to send a clear message to any potential adversary that if one ally is attacked, the whole alliance will be there," Stoltenberg said.

His comments were a reaction to Russia saying it would deploy around 20 new military formations and units close to NATO's borders by the end of the year, which Moscow justified by calling out increased military activity on its western flank.

Stoltenberg, however, said NATO had stepped up its exercises and ramped up its readiness in response to Russia's interference in Ukraine and an increased Russian military presence in the Baltic Sea, Kaliningrad and the Black Sea.

"This is one of the main reasons why NATO over the last years has increased the readiness of our forces and also why we have deployed battle groups to the eastern part of the alliance," Stoltenberg said.

NATO's Russia policy follows a two-track approach of deterrence and dialogue, though the alliance suspended all practical cooperation with Moscow in April 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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