Moscow has said it wants to restore its ties with Nato and that it did not consider the alliance a Cold War anachronism, in a statement at odds with an atmosphere of deteriorating relations between Russia and the West.

Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's European cooperation department, Andrei Kelin, said: "We need to restore normal relations and renew what we had before".

He described the alliance as a "reality" which gave smaller countries military advantages as they could access their neighbours' defence resources rather than use their own budgets.

"It is not possible to convince member countries that they need to leave Nato, that it is an anachronism, because clearly rational reasons outweigh that," he told the Interfax news service on Wednesday (4 January).

Ahead of the swearing in of a new US president in two weeks, there is much anticipation over what kind of ties Moscow will forge with Washington, which is the alliance's biggest funder.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has regularly criticised the alliance for encroaching on its borders. Lithuania's foreign minister Linas Linkevicius has called for tougher action to counter Russia's boosting of its weapons in Kaliningrad of Iskander missiles, S-400 missiles and jets.

He told The Times that naval exercises in the Baltic Sea were examples of "military hooliganism... designed to make an impression".

The Nato-Russia council resumed talks in April 2016 for the first time since 2014, after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine. On Tuesday (3 January) the French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen potentially further complicated ties between Moscow and the West when she backed Russia's annexation of the peninsula.

"I absolutely disagree that it was an illegal annexation: a referendum was held and residents of Crimea chose to rejoin Russia," she told the French channel BFM TV.

The alliance's former deputy supreme allied commander for Europe, Sir Richard Shirreff, told IBTimes UK in November that he feared that Donald Trump's apparent disdain for Nato will increase Putin's military ambitions.

"I think Putin's aim is to neutralise Nato and one of the ways he does that is by decoupling America from European security. That is what he is going to be looking for by cosying up to Trump".

Andrei Kelin
Russian foreign ministry figure Andrei Kelin has called for a renewal of Russia-Nato ties Reuters