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On February 16, 2017, ahead of the Munich Security Conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Federal Security Board (FSB) at the annual expanded meeting to discuss the FSB’s results for 2016 and the priority tasks for ensuring Russia’s national security. During his speech, Putin discussed NATO-Russia relations. Putin stated that NATO is constantly provoking Russia militarily. Putin said: “At the NATO summit last July in Warsaw, Russia was declared the main threat to the alliance for the first time since 1989, and NATO officially proclaimed containing Russia its new mission. It is with this aim that NATO continues its expansion. This expansion was already underway earlier, but now they believe they have more serious reasons for doing so. They have stepped up the deployment of strategic and conventional arms beyond the national borders of the principal NATO member states. They are provoking us constantly and are trying to draw us into confrontation. We see continued attempts to interfere in our internal affairs in a bid to destabilize the social and political situation in Russia itself.”

Putin’s speech comes on the same day that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated at the NATO summit in Brussels that the Alliance will strengthen its air and maritime presence in the Black Sea region. Stoltenberg said: “Today, we agreed on two additional maritime measures: an increased NATO naval presence in the Black Sea for enhanced training, exercises and situational awareness, and a maritime coordination function for our Standing Naval Forces when operating with other Allied forces in the Black Sea region.”[1]

Commenting on NATO decision, Russian Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko said: “All these decisions will be subject of thorough analysis… And, undoubtedly, we will take all necessary measures to properly safeguard Russia’s national interests in this region… While NATO maintains its stance not to cooperate with Russia, adopted at the summit in Warsaw, we cannot view the Alliance as a potential partner.”[2]

Furthermore, commenting on NATO’s plans for increased defense spending (NATO plans to reach a common defense spending by all 28 members at 2% of national GDP), Grushko said: “The danger lies in the fact that NATO defense spending increase stipulates a serious spike in weapons procurement. In essence, if these plans will be realized, we could find ourselves in the situation of a cold war, when the military planning, aimed at countering a ‘large enemy,’ would generate respective policies.”[3]

Grushko also stated that Russia may lose interest in a dialogue with NATO if it yields no results. Grushko stressed: “In general, NATO believes that it is necessary to maintain dialogue. I think it stems from the fact that they have realized the danger of having no communications channels with us… It is fraught with risks when two biggest factors determining the security situation in Europe have no contacts. After a two-year break in the work of the Russia-NATO Council that was initiated by the alliance, the practice of Russian-NATO Council meetings has resumed and last year we had three such meetings in the second half of the year We have not yet begun to prepare a Russia-NATO Council meeting. I think it will be held in a foreseeable perspective”. He then added: “It is obvious for us that dialogue is really useful. But if it yields no points of contact, no impetus for the resumption of cooperation, interest to such dialogue might vanish in the long run.”[4]

Following are excerpts of Putin’s speech at the annual expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Board:[5]
Putin at the meeting of the Federal Security Service board (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Putin: ‘NATO Officially Proclaimed Containing Russia Its New Mission’

“… The FSB plays a key part in protecting our constitutional order and our country’s sovereignty, and in protecting our people from threats at home and abroad. Let me say from the start that last year’s results were positive and show good development. This concerns your work to counter terrorism and extremism, a series of successful counterintelligence operations, your efforts to combat economic crime, and other areas.

“You ensured a high standard of security for major public events, including the State Duma election and regional and local elections… At the same time, demands on the quality and results of your work grow constantly. The global situation has not become any more stable or better over the past year. On the contrary, many existing threats and challenges have only become more acute.

“Military-political and economic rivalry between global and regional policy makers and between individual countries has increased. We see bloody conflicts continue in a number of countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. International terrorist groups, essentially terrorist armies, receiving tacit and sometimes even open support from some countries, take active part in these conflicts.

“At the NATO summit last July in Warsaw, Russia was declared the main threat to the alliance for the first time since 1989, and NATO officially proclaimed containing Russia its new mission. It is with this aim that NATO continues its expansion. This expansion was already underway earlier, but now they believe they have more serious reasons for doing so. They have stepped up the deployment of strategic and conventional arms beyond the national borders of the principal NATO member states. They are provoking us constantly and are trying to draw us into confrontation. We see continued attempts to interfere in our internal affairs in a bid to destabilize the social and political situation in Russia itself.

“We also see the recent serious flare-up in southeast Ukraine. This escalation pursues the clear aim of preventing the Minsk Agreements from going ahead. The current Ukrainian authorities are obviously not seeking a peaceful solution to this very complex problem and have decided to opt for the use of force instead. What is more, they speak openly about organizing sabotage and terrorism, particularly in Russia. Obviously, this is a matter of great concern.

“The events and circumstances I have mentioned require our security and intelligence services, especially the Federal Security Service, to concentrate their utmost attention and effort on the paramount task of fighting terrorism. We have already seen that our intelligence services dealt some serious blows to terrorists and their accomplices. Last year’s results confirm this: the number of terrorism related crimes has decreased.

“Preventive work has also brought results. The FSB and other security agencies, with the National Antiterrorist Committee acting as coordinator, prevented 45 terrorism related crimes, including 16 planned terrorist attacks. You deserve special gratitude for this. You need to continue your active efforts to identify and block terrorist groups’ activity, eliminate their financial base, prevent the activities of their emissaries from abroad and their dangerous activity on the internet, and take into account in this work Russian and international experience in this area.

“The murder of our ambassador to Turkey was a terrible crime that particularly highlighted the need to protect our citizens and missions abroad. I ask you to work together with the Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Intelligence Service to take additional measures to ensure their safety.

“You must also work to take our counterterrorism cooperation with partners abroad to a new level, despite the difficulties that we see in various areas of international life. It is a priority, of course, to intensify work with our partners in organizations such as the UN, the CSTO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”
Putin with the Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov, at a meeting of the Federal Security Service board (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Putin: ‘It Is In Our Common Interests To Restore Dialogue With The U.S. Intelligence Services And With Other NATO Member Countries’

“It is in our common interests to restore dialogue with the U.S. intelligence services and with other NATO member countries. It is not our fault that these ties were broken off and are not developing. It is very clear that all responsible countries and international groups should work together on counterterrorism, because even simply exchanging information on terrorists’ financing channels and sources and on people involved in or suspected of links with terrorism can substantially improve the results of our common efforts.

“Our priorities include firmly suppressing extremism. Security methods must go hand-in-hand with constant prevention work. It is essential to prevent extremism from drawing young people into its criminal networks, and to form an overall firm rejection of nationalism, xenophobia, and aggressive radicalism. In this context, of great importance is open dialogue with civil society institutions and representatives of Russia’s traditional religions.

“Counterintelligence services also face greater demands today. Operational data show that foreign intelligence services’ activity in Russia has not decreased. Last year, our counterintelligence services put a stop to the work of 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents.

“It is important to neutralize foreign intelligence services’ efforts to gain access to confidential information, particularly information concerning our military-technical capabilities. This makes it a priority to improve our system for protecting classified information comprising state secrets, particularly with agencies going over to an electronic document circulation system.

“I would like to note that the number of cyber-attacks on official information resources tripled in 2016 compared to 2015. In this context, each agency must develop its segment of the state system for detecting and preventing cyber-attacks on information resources and eliminating their consequences. The public expects greater results in such key areas as economic security and the fight against corruption. I ask you to be particularly thorough in monitoring the funds allocated for state defense procurement (a subject I have spoken about before), major infrastructure projects, preparation of big international events, and implementing federal targeted and socially important programs. Regrettably, we still see many cases of state funds being embezzled or misappropriated.

“Reliable protection of our state borders plays a big part in ensuring our country’s comprehensive security. The priority here is to close off channels through which members of international terrorist and extremist groups enter Russia, and put a firm stop to all forms of smuggling, from weapons to drugs and various bio-resources.

“Of course, we must continue the work to develop border infrastructure where it is not yet sufficiently developed, particularly in the Far East and in the Arctic. Colleagues, let me stress that we will continue to bolster the FSB’s central and regional branches and ensure you have the most advanced arms and equipment…”

 

[1] Nato.int, February 16, 2017.

[2] Sputniknews.com, February 16, 2017.

[3] Sputniknews.com, February 16, 2017.

[4] Tass.com, February 16, 2017.

[5] Kremlin.ru, February 16, 2017.

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