MOSCOW (Sputnik) – There is no way Russia can be isolated, NATO needs to manage its relations with Moscow, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday.
"Russia is our biggest neighbor, Russia is here to stay, there is no way we can isolate Russia, we have to manage our relationship with Russia, and especially in times when tension runs high it’s especially important to keep channels of dialogue open with Russia," Stoltenberg said at the German Marshall Fund conference, stressing the importance of transparency.
The official also expressed his belief that Moscow was open for dialogue within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council.
"We need strong defense, we need deterrence and we are strengthening our defense and deterrence. But at the same time we are underlining and underscoring the need for political dialogue with Russia," Stoltenberg said.
Since 2014, NATO has been building up its military presence in Europe, especially in Eastern European countries neighboring Russia, using Moscow’s alleged interference in the Ukrainian conflict as a pretext. Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims and warned NATO that the military buildup on Russia’s borders is provocative and threatens the existing strategic balance of power.
Stoltenberg said he welcomed the dialogue between Russian and Turkish presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, respectively.
"After the downing of the Russian plane last year I actually called for direct contact Ankara-Moscow because I think it’s better to talk than to not talk … There is a difference between the threats posed by ISIL [Daesh], ISIL is a terrorist organization we try to eradicate, not talk to but eradicate, Russia is a challenge, it’s a neighbor and it’s going to be there so we have to talk to them so therefore I welcome that there are direct contacts between president Putin and president Erdogan," he said.