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NATO Chief Says Russia Destabilizing Europe, Criticizes 'Nuclear Rhetoric'

MUNICH, Germany -- NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that an "assertive Russia is destabilizing Europe" and that Moscow's "rhetoric and posturing" about its nuclear might is "aimed at intimidating its neighbors" and undermining trust.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on February 13, Stoltenberg said that NATO does not want "confrontation" with Russia or a "new Cold War," but that its response must be firm.

He said that NATO's moves to strengthen defenses on its eastern flank are just that -- defensive -- and designed "not to wage war but to prevent war."

Stoltenberg said he expects further moves to strengthen those defenses at a NATO summit in Warsaw in July.

He called for "more defense" as well as "more dialogue" with Russia.

Stoltenberg voiced concern about an increase in Russian references to the country's nuclear might. He said "nobody should think that" nuclear weapons can be used in a conventional war.

Russia occupied and seized control of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has given military backing to separatists whose war with Kyiv's forces has killed more than 9,000 people in eastern Ukraine.

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