NATO-Russia talks due as military build-up move looms: Stoltenberg

In April, the NATO-Russia Council held its first meeting since June 2014 when relations were effectively frozen, and the talks ended in "profound disagreements" over Ukraine and other issues (AFP Photo/John Thys) (AFP/File)

Brussels (AFP) - NATO is set to hold formal talks with Russia shortly after a summit in Warsaw this week where the alliance will endorse a military build-up following the Ukraine conflict, chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

In April, the NATO-Russia Council held its first meeting since June 2014 when relations were effectively frozen, and the talks ended in "profound disagreements" over Ukraine and other issues.

"The NATO-Russia Council has an important role to play as a forum for dialogue" and could "increase predictability", Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels ahead of the two-day summit starting on Friday.

"That is why we are working with Russia to hold another meeting of the council shortly after the summit," he added.

In May, Stoltenberg had said NATO member states were aiming to try for a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council before the summit.

"We were ready to have a meeting before the summit but to be honest it doesn't matter that much whether it is before or after. The important thing is that it takes place," Stoltenberg said.

The next NATO-Russia meeting should address "risk reduction, transparency and predictability", especially after incidents including the downing of a Russian plane on the Turkey-Syria border last year and the buzzing of a US ship in the Baltics, he said.

Leaders meeting in the Polish capital this weekend will rubber-stamp the 28-nation alliance's biggest military buildup since the Cold War in response to a newly resurgent Russia.

Russia's 2014 intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea stung NATO out of its post-Cold War complacency and into a major revamp to boost its readiness and resources to meet a host of new security challenges.

Russia has reacted angrily to the NATO move, with President Vladimir Putin saying the alliance is provoking an arms race "frenzy" in Europe and that Moscow would respond.

Russia bitterly opposes NATO's expansion into its Soviet-era satellites and has said it will create three new divisions in its southwest region to meet what it has described as a dangerous military build-up along its borders

It has also warned neighbouring Finland it will respond if Helsinki opts to join NATO. Finland is set to attend the Warsaw summit as a very close partner country.

Asked about possible membership, Stoltenberg said it was "up to the Finns to decide" and added that it was "absolutely unjustified if that provokes reaction".

Meanwhile the NATO chief said he was confident the next British government would keep its commitments to the alliance despite voting last month to pull out of the EU, prompting Prime Minister David Cameron's resignation.

"The UK will remain a strong and committed ally," he said.

"I am certain that a new government in the UK will continue that line. This is important."