Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on June 4, 2021.

Vladimir Smirnov | me Sputnik | via Reuters

NATO will continue to expand its military capabilities and use a “broad combination of instruments” to counter Russian aggression, but it does not aim to “mirror” its rival power, the organization’s chief told CNBC on Sunday.

“NATO’s approach to Russia is based on what we call a two-pronged approach, defense and dialogue,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNBC Hadley Gamble from Brussels.

“And that is exactly what we will do when we have implemented the greatest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War and we continue to strengthen our collective defense with high readiness, more troops and increased investment in our defense.”

He added, “And after years of cutting defense budgets, all of our (members) are now investing more. So we are not going to reflect what Russia is doing different tools as we have proven over the past few years. “

The comments come ahead of an expected summit meeting between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16. You are following Putin’s interview with NBC News, broadcast on Saturday, in which the Russian leader said US-Russian relations “have deteriorated” to the lowest level in years. “

Stoltenberg explained the issue of nuclear weapons and said: “When it comes to land-based nuclear missiles, since the fall of the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty it has been a consistent position of NATO for several years that we do not plan to develop new land-based nuclear missiles to use. ” The US, under former President Donald Trump, stepped out of the Cold War-era treaty in 2019 after accusing Russia of violating it.

“But we will make sure that we respond to new Russian military armaments, including with nuclear weapons,” he said. “And we’re doing this in a variety of ways, including strengthening our air and missile defense … and of course also through arms control, and that’s part of the dialogue with Russia.”

“Sanctions are important”

Stoltenberg also discussed sanctions, the specter of which is great for Russia, with the Biden government pledging to take a tougher stance on Russia than Trump.

“Sanctions are important,” he said, adding that those imposed in 2014 for Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea should “continue” along with “more support for close partners such as Ukraine and Georgia”.

The Biden government imposed a series of new sanctions against Moscow in April for alleged interference in the 2020 elections, a colossal cyberattack on the US government and corporate networks, illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea, and human rights violations. The Russian government rejects all allegations.

“Perhaps the most important thing we have done is that for the first time in NATO history we have combat-ready troops in the eastern part of the alliance,” said Stoltenberg. “New combat groups are being sent to the Baltic countries and Poland, and we have tripled the size of the NATO forces.”

Military armaments

Russia has amassed a huge military buildup in the Arctic, according to satellite imagery, and is developing a new “super weapon” called the Poseidon 2M39 torpedo, which has caused concern among Western officials. The unmanned stealth torpedo, powered by a nuclear reactor, is supposed to pass the countries’ coastal defenses over the seabed.

In April Moscow sparked fear and confusion on the border with Ukraine with massive military build-up, prompting the US European Command to raise its awareness of “potential impending crisis” before withdrawing. Western officials blame it for the far-reaching and sophisticated SolarWinds hack against US government agencies in 2020. Russia denies participation.

Biden also said Russia has “a certain responsibility” to deal with the hackers behind May’s devastating cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, even though the White House did not blame the Kremlin because US officials carried out the attack with a hacker group in Russia get in touch. Russian government spokesmen have denied any links between their country and the hack.

But in a sign that it may expect further sanctions, Russia’s finance minister announced in early June that the country would cut the US dollar from its $ 186 billion National Wealth Fund as Washington continues to fines Moscow.

“The message is, ‘We don’t need the US, we don’t need dollar transactions and we are immune to further US sanctions,'” Timothy Ash, senior emerging market strategist, said in a research note following the announcement.

‘Nothing to worry about’

Biden hit Putin with a bold affront in March, calling him a “murderer” during a television interview, to which Putin replied: “When we characterize other people or even characterize other states, it’s always as if we were in the Look in the mirror. “

Asked again about Biden’s “killer” comment over the weekend, Putin said. “That’s not something I’m the least bit worried about.”

“We are not looking for a conflict with Russia,” Biden said before the summit.

“We want a stable and predictable relationship … but I made it clear that the United States will respond robustly and sensibly if the Russian government engages in harmful activities.”

– CNBC’s Sam Shead contributed to this report.