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Monday, November 21, 2016

NATO a 'cold-war relic,' according to Russian ambassador

By: Laura Payton, CTV News 

OTTAWA -- Russia's ambassador to Canada says NATO is deploying in eastern Europe to justify its existence in a post-Soviet world.

Alexander Darchiev says Canada is a sovereign country that can make its own choices, but he doesn't believe NATO should be moving additional troops into countries that border Russia.

"NATO is irrelevant. It's cold-war relic, which desperately needs rationale for its continued existence," Darchiev said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV's Question Period.

"If you want [to] divert your resources for [a] NATO build-up, that's the sovereign choice of Canada," he said.

NATO started reinforcing itself in countries like Lithuania and Poland in 2014, after Russia captured Crimea, a pro-Russia part of Ukraine. NATO called the takeover illegal, although Russia termed it a reunification.

Canada is set to command a 1,000-person battle group in Latvia early in the new year, including 450 Canadian Forces members, following nearly two years of military exercises and training in central and eastern Europe.

The Russian ambassador says the only way to achieve peace in Ukraine is for both sides to negotiate.

"The major self-deception for the west is to believe there is a Russian aggression. There is no Russian aggression," Darchiev said, calling the conflict in Ukraine a civil war.

"[The] NATO buildup is a national security concern. We are open for dialogue, but we sincerely believe it's not good for European security," he added.

Russian email hack? 'Definite' no

Darchiev praised U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's win nearly two weeks ago as "a victory of common sense and pragmatism," but said Russia had nothing to do with the email hacks that revealed messages of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's top campaign officials. American intelligence officials, including the FBI, said it was Russian government hackers who stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and other officials.

"No. We have a definite answer on that," Darchiev said when asked if Russia was behind the hacks, which saw the documents made public by Wikileaks.

"Due to Edward Snowden, we now know that NSA capabilities are unmatched in imposing global surveillance, in bugging smart phones and in eavesdropping [on] even closest allies," he said, referring to the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the NSA's mass surveillance program.

The Russian official said his country didn't interfere in the American election.

"All elections are domestic. It's about jobs, it's about discontent of the middle class so no foreign power could ever influence election in a super power," he said.