July 7, 2016 / 9:51 AM / 3 years ago

Merkel offers hand to Russia ahead of NATO summit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a meeting on EU summit results at the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered Moscow her “outstretched hand for dialogue” on Thursday, a day before NATO leaders meet in Warsaw to cement a new deterrent against what they see as an emboldened Russia.

Germany, which helped ease the Cold War with its ‘Ostpolitik’, or rapprochement with Communist states in eastern Europe, wants a constructive relationship between Russia and NATO, Merkel said.

“This means deterrence and dialogue, the clear commitment to solidarity with our partners in the alliance .. and an outstretched hand for dialogue,” she told parliament.

The two-day NATO summit in Warsaw will be dominated by the alliance’s response to Russia and a conflict in eastern Ukraine that the West accuses Moscow of fomenting at a cost of more than 9,000 lives. The conflict has led to Western imposition of economic sanctions on Russia and countermeasures by Moscow.

Russia says it is the alliance, not Moscow, that is increasing the risks of a broader conflict in Europe, citing NATO’s biggest modernisation since the Cold War and a U.S. missile defence shield as reasons to be worried.

The United States wants to hand over command and control of the missile shield to NATO at Warsaw. Merkel said the system, which is part of the U.S. response to protect against Iranian missiles, was positioned purely defensively.

“It is not directed against Russia,” she said to some heckling from opposition lawmakers. “It does not influence the strategic balance between NATO and Russia.”

Reporting by Paul Carrel; editing by Ralph Boulton

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