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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia-NATO Relations to Strain Further, Says General

WASHINGTON -- Russia seems intent on weakening Western institutions, and its relations with NATO will likely be more strained in the coming years than at any time since the Cold War ended, NATO's top commander said.

U.S. Army General John Craddock said Russia's military action in Georgia last year overturned a basic assumption made by NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union that no countries were under threat of invasion in Europe or Eurasia.

"That assumption has been now proven false," Craddock, NATO's supreme allied commander Europe, told the U.S. Senate's armed services committee Tuesday.

"Russia seems determined [to] see Euro-Atlantic security institutions weakened and has shown a readiness to use economic leverage and military force to achieve its aims," Craddock said in written testimony for the committee.

Russia has pursued a more assertive foreign policy in recent years, strongly criticizing the United States and flexing its military muscle last August by sending troops into Georgia for a brief war over the region of South Ossetia.

Moscow showed its economic clout by cutting off gas supplies to Europe in January during a dispute with Ukraine.

"Russian leaders, political and military have signaled that the door remains open to closer cooperation," Craddock said in his written testimony. "Nevertheless, their actions in Georgia in August 2008 and with European natural gas supplies in January 2009 suggest that their overall intent may be to weaken European solidarity and systematically reduce U.S. influence," he said.

Despite the tensions, Craddock said the U.S. military was ready to engage with its Russian counterpart. The United States and NATO broke off routine contacts with the Russian military after the Georgia war.