April 14, 2016 / 12:27 PM / a year ago

Poland says NATO must speak to Russia from position of strength

A Polish army member hods the NATO flag in front of a F-16 aircraft during a visit of new Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg of Norway (not pictured) at Lask air base in this October 6, 2014 file photo.Kacper Pempel

WARSAW (Reuters) - NATO should return to Cold War ways of thinking in its relations with Russia, and speak to Moscow from a position of strength to counter its renewed assertiveness in eastern Europe, Polish deputy defense minister said.

A former Soviet satellite, Poland has been alarmed by Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in 2014 and its support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and remains one of Moscow's staunchest critics.

In July, Warsaw will host NATO heads of state at a summit, where it will push for an increased military presence on the alliance's eastern flank. Russia says deployment of significant NATO forces close to its borders would violate the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act.

"Russia's sees its relations with the West in Cold War terms, so to ensure the efficiency of deterrence we must link it to the way of thinking of the one we want to deter," Tomasz Szatkowski told Reuters.

"Right now, we must speak to Russia from a position of strength, although obviously without excessive muscle-flexing."

Szatkowski's comments came before two Russian warplanes' simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, an incident one U.S. official described as one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory.

Poland is one of Washington's closest European allies. The destroyer, USS Donald Cook, had just wrapped up a port visit in the Polish city of Gdynia on April 11 and proceeded out to sea with a Polish helicopter on board.

Reporting by Wiktor Szary, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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