WASHINGTON, DC -- NATO member states Thursday (April 4) issued a joint statement announcing new actions the alliance is taking to counter Russia's aggression.
Closing two days of talks in Washington, foreign ministers of the 29-nation alliance said they face "an unpredictable and challenging security situation" that includes "a more aggressive Russia".
"Vladimir Putin harbors dark dreams of imperialism. This is evident from his invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, his meddling in Syria and now in Venezuela. He wants to split our alliance and weaken our democratic resolve," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a NATO meeting in Washington Thursday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance approved new surveillance measures and naval exercises on the Black Sea to back Ukraine and Georgia, aspiring members of NATO that are facing Russian-backed separatist forces.
"We are stepping up our efforts in the Black Sea region," he told reporters.
Stoltenberg, asked by a reporter if NATO was provoking Russia by considering membership for Ukraine and Georgia, said that "big powers" cannot dictate terms to others.
"As soon as you accept that that's a provocation against Russia, then you accept that Russia has the right to decide what neighbours can do," he said.
Central Asian states, potential targets of the Kremlin's aggression, have long been wary of Russia's policies against Ukraine and Georgia.
Putin's celebration of Russia's illegal actions and observance of the fifth anniversary of Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by visiting the Black Sea peninsula on March 18 did not go unnoticed in the region.
Concerns about Russian interference have been steadily growing in Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan, which has a concentration of ethnic Russians in the north of the country, has undertaken the voluntary resettlement of ethnic Kazakhs from the south to the north.