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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 04:32 GMT 05:32 UK

World: Europe

Nato is new Russian enemy

The Russian army is feeling the need to show its strength

By Moscow Correspondent, Rob Parsons

The rocky relations between Nato and Russia have, for the moment at least, found level ground again.

Kosovo: Special Report
The two sides have resolved their dispute over peacekeeping deployments in Kosovo and Russian reinforcements can resume flights to Pristina.

But the truce is an uneasy one, in a climate of the worst distrust and enmity between the two former arch-rivals since the Cold War.

Robert Parsons: Watch his report in full
Russia has infuriated Nato in recent days: Nato had accused Moscow of seeking to expand its area of influence into the Italian-patrolled sector of Kosovo.

And last week, Russian strategic bombers flew into Nato's air defences near Iceland.

[ image: NATO has been infuriated by Russian actions over Kosovo]
NATO has been infuriated by Russian actions over Kosovo
That confrontation happened during land, sea and air exercises carried out by the Russian army from the country's western border, on a scale that made them the biggest since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

The scenario was a full-scale invasion. The unstated assumption was that the enemy was Nato.

Deepening suspicion

In Moscow, the mood is hardening, and the alliance's bombardment of Yugoslavia has deepened Russia's suspicion of the West.

[ image: Russia celebrated the troops' arrival at Pristina airport]
Russia celebrated the troops' arrival at Pristina airport
The surprise deployment of 200 Russian paratroopers to Pristina airport in Kosovo caught Nato off balance and at last gave Russia something to celebrate.

This is a country which cannot forget its past, and the memories of invasion during the Second World War still have the power to traumatise.

Now Russia feels insecure again - aware of its weakness and nervous of Nato's growing strength.

But today the Russian army is a shadow of the force that fought off Hitler.

Military weakness, underlined by Moscow's inability to prevent Nato action in Yugoslavia, is prompting a new emphasis on the one deterrent that still commands the respect of the world.

The Cold War is over but Russia may never have been more dangerous. A nuclear giant, its pride has been badly hurt.

The West cannot afford to let it drift into isolation.

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