Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said on Thursday that the announced US withdrawal of about 12,000 troops from Germany would promote peace in Europe.
“The fewer US soldiers are on the European continent, the calmer it is in Europe. This position of ours is well-known,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by Russian state news agency TASS.
Peskov said that following the Cold War there has been no real danger of Russia going to war with a Western power. “After the end of the Cold War bloc stand-off, there are no evident real dangers and threats,” he said.
Russia’s annexation of neighbouring Ukraine’s Crimea region six years ago prompted concerns among other former Eastern Bloc states that Russia could continue to take territory in the region previously dominated by the Soviet Union.
The former Soviet Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as former Eastern Bloc member Poland, have been strengthening their militaries in recent years as members of the West’s NATO military alliance, amid concerns of a potential threat from Russia.
Ukraine has also accused Russia of direct involvement in a pro-Russian separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, near the Russia border, that followed the annexation of Crimea to the south.
The rebellion and the Crimea annexation were in response to Ukraine ousting its pro-Russian president in early 2014 in a political pivot away from Russia and towards the West, particularly the European Union. Russia denies involvement in the conflict.
The United States has announced plans this week to withdraw 11,900 military personnel from Germany – down to 24,000 from 36,000.
US President Donald Trump had announced intentions for a partial withdrawal last month amid a long-running spat with Germany over its defence spending, which falls well below the NATO target of 2 per cent of national gross domestic product.