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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO to Quiz Ivanov Over Army Warning

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado -- Provoked NATO officials want an explanation from Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov of Russia's threat to rethink its nuclear strategy because of the Western alliance's "offensive military doctrine."

Thursday's final day of talks by NATO defense ministers in this Rocky Mountain city also was to review plans to expand the alliance's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and consider a European Union offer to take over peacekeeping in Bosnia.

Ivanov was to join his NATO counterparts a week after the document released by his ministry cast a shadow over much-improved relations between Russia and its Cold War rival.

Released before a Moscow meeting among Ivanov, President Vladimir Putin and senior military officers, the document noted that NATO had failed to remove "anti-Russian components" from its military plans and political statements.

"If NATO is preserved as a military alliance with its existing offensive military doctrine, this will demand a radical reconstruction of Russian military planning ... including changes in Russian nuclear strategy," the Defense Ministry said.

Separately, Putin said Russia has dozens of stored strategic missiles that would allow it to maintain its strategic potential for years, and Ivanov reiterated that Russia would not rule out a pre-emptive attack anywhere if national interests demand it.

"I've no doubt that minister Sergei Ivanov will want to expand on the fairly sketchy details that came out of that meeting,'' NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, said at a news conference Wednesday on the opening day of the ministers' meeting.

After speaking to Ivanov last week, Robertson said the minister has been "at pains to say that some of the reports bore no relation to what the reality was."

Russia's relations with the NATO alliance have warmed since the signing last year of a partnership agreement that increased military and political contacts and set up a NATO-Russia Council that sets up regular meetings between Russian ministers and their NATO fellows.

Russia's military remains uneasy, however, about NATO's plans to bring in seven new members next year from the old communist bloc, including the former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

"It's been a challenge for Russia to see all the new members, but they have to live with that," Norwegian Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold said.

The deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, Colonel-General Yury Baluyevsky, told reporters last week in Moscow that the Kremlin was bothered by NATO's "anti-Russian orientation" and what he described as NATO plans to "lower the threshold of using nuclear weapons."

On Afghanistan, the NATO ministers were expected to reaffirm their commitment to expand the alliance's peacekeeping mission, which currently is restricted to the capital, Kabul.

Plans under consideration would see alliance troops fan out into up to eight provincial cities to protect civilian reconstruction teams.

The plans could more than double the current NATO force of 5,000, which operates separately form the U.S.-led force hunting fighters of the al-Qaida network and the former Taliban ruling militia in the countryside.

Diplomats said the United States was expected to ask for more time to consider the European Union's offer to take over NATO's nine-year-old peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in next year.

A transfer of responsibility to the EU would free up the 1,500 U.S. troops that comprise about 10 percent of the Bosnia force. U.S. officials are unsure, however, of the ability of the EU's fledgling military arm to handle the mission.