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Brok: 'Russia is taking risks here'

The German CDU MEP and chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament wants to launch a debate about permanently stationing troops in eastern NATO countries.

DW: Mr. Brok, stationing troops in the east marks a shift from traditional practice. Will that not escalate the confrontation with Russia?

Elmar Brok: Up until now, the right thing to do has been to avoid it. But now we need to understand there are great fears of Russian aggression in the Baltic countries, or Poland, as there were in Germany up until 1989. So, it needs to be carefully considered and investigated whether Putin's policy of aggression warrants the deployment of troops.

How seriously are you taking the NATO threat in the east?

There are scenarios of Russia occupying large parts of Ukraine, and Moldova could become a victim of Russia's nationalistic strategy. That would mean that Russia would be right on NATO and EU borders. And the arguments used for the annexation of Crimea are also an exact fit to the Baltic States.

Would NATO ever be able to prevent a Russian invasion in, for example, Estonia?

They would not be in a position to do that today. Therefore it is necessary, if this really is a possibility for the Russian government, that we closely consider what can be done here. NATO has clear responsibilities, but it has to be made clear that Russia is taking risks here. This deterrent is what kept the peace throughout the Cold War. This time around, we need to think of a new strategy. But I hope that, within the next few days, diplomatic talks work out, and Russia does not continue on the path of aggression.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Does that mean Ukraine's just unlucky - that it's come to the party too late, and is now at the mercy of Russian power politics?

There is an obligation, through the treaty of alliance, to NATO countries only. And that's why, previously, the right decision has been made from our side not to use military force in Ukraine. If there were to be an attack on NATO territory, a kind of Article 5 automatism would be available. And, I think it's important to let Russia know they shouldn't overstep the mark and should return to abiding politically by international law.

To what extent does the Ukraine crisis constitute a watershed event? Are we really black to the confrontational bloc politics of 1989, or even back in the 19th century?

It's more like the 19th century, but using modern weapons with consequences like during the Cold War era in the nuclear age. For 25 years we've hoped the rules of the Helsinki Final Act - the legal obligations of all parties to accept the territorial integrity of a country - would mean something like this wouldn't be possible. And, if someone had said to me six weeks ago that this would happen, I would have thought it was impossible.

Elmar Brok is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament and a German CDU politician.

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