France says Russia a partner, not a ‘threat’

NATO leaders gathered on Friday to endorse a revamp to counter a more aggressive Moscow

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French President Francois Hollande said Friday Russia should not be considered a threat but rather a partner, as NATO leaders met to endorse a revamp to counter a more aggressive Moscow.

“NATO has no role at all to be saying what Europe’s relations with Russia should be. For France, Russia is not an adversary, not a threat,” Hollande said as he arrived for a landmark alliance summit in Warsaw.

“Russia is a partner which, it is true, may sometimes, and we have seen that in Ukraine, use force which we have condemned when it annexed Crimea,” he added.

Leaders of the NATO military alliance gathered Friday to order ambitious actions against a daunting array of dangers to the security of their nations and citizenry, including a rearmed and increasingly unfriendly Russia to Europe’s east and violent Islamic extremism to the south.

“The decisions we’re going to take together will once again confirm that Europe and North America stand together, act together to support all allies against any threats,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, predicting a “landmark summit” meeting of US President Barack Obama and other heads of state and government.

US to send troops to Poland

After arriving in Warsaw, Obama announced the US will send an additional 1,000 US troops to Poland as part of a NATO effort to reinforce its presence on the alliance’s frontiers near Russia. He met with Polish President Andrzej Duda, and hailed Poland as “a lynchpin in the defense of NATO's eastern flank.”

In an op-ed published in the Financial Times, Obama called on NATO to stand firm against Russia, terrorism and other challenges, and to “summon the political will, and make concrete commitments” to strengthen European cooperation after the British people’s vote in June to leave the European Union.

Stoltenberg said for NATO’s 28 member nations to be safe, they don’t only need to reinforce their own armed forces, but to come to the aid of partner nations in the Middle East and North Africa menaced by extremist violence.

“For our nations to be safe, it’s not enough to keep our defenses strong, we must help to make our partners stronger,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

“Training local forces is often our best weapon against violent extremism,” Stoltenberg told a pre-summit forum of defense and security experts. Among the items on the NATO meeting’s ambitious agenda is increased assistance for Iraq’s military, extension of the West’s financial commitment to the Afghan military and police, aid for Tunisia, and getting NATO more involved in the campaign against ISIS by authorizing use of AWACS surveillance planes to assist the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group.

High security

Helicopters hovered Friday above the National Stadium, the meeting’s venue, while 6,000 police officers, backed up by soldiers, gendarmes, firefighters and other security officials, were out on Warsaw's streets.

Security efforts are most heavily concentrated at the stadium, which has been encircled by a metal barrier, and high around hotels hosting the many VIPs. Many streets in the city of 1.7 million have been blocked and some mass transit routes altered, inconveniencing many residents.

The airspace over Warsaw is also being monitored closely, with a ban on flights in a 100-kilometer (60-mile) radius from the stadium. Violators run the risk of being shot down.

(With AFP, AP)

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