Russia is a partner for France, but not a friend, French Senate member Hélène Conway-Mouret has said in Vilnius, adding that Russia was not a bigger threat to NATO and Europe than Islamic State.

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French President Francois Hollande and Russia's Vladimir Putin
© AP/Scanpix

"Why would Russia be a threat? (Russian President) Vladimir Putin has not declared, made any declaration against the EU or France at any time. I understand the word 'partner' - a partner is not an ally, a partner is somebody you speak with. And if you speak, you listen," Conway-Mouret, secretary general of the French Senate's Commission for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces, told BNS.

She spoke in comment of the position stated by French President François Hollande at the NATO Summit that Russia was "not an adversary, not a threat". "Russia is a partner which, it is true, may sometimes, and we have seen that in Ukraine, use force which we have condemned when it annexed Crimea," he said.

The senator noted that "Russia has not shown any indication it wants to attack Europe". Meanwhile terrorist attacks coordinated or inspired by Islamic State are a clear direct threat, said Conway-Mouret, adding that the NATO Article 5 was in effect that envisages response of all member-states in case of an attack against one ally.

"We have everything in place. And if I believe there is any problem anywhere, I think, the sensitive regions, the Baltic states, maybe need to be confident, that yes, there is a nuclear power that France holds, that would be used, if there was a massive war. But in reality I think one is to be realistic that the threat that Russia may pose today as against the people who have indicated openly that they want to attack us, and they do," said the senator.

The MP in charge of defence and armed forces emphasized that nuclear weapons were intended "to prevent and deter" rather than to attack.

Conway-Mouret also stated that France would continue its support to Lithuania by sending troops and equipment to the Baltic air-policing mission, in addition to sending a company of about 150 troops to the international NATO battalion in 2018 as "part of an agreement at the European level." In her words, France made the decision because "we do believe in European defence and security".

In comment of the agreements reached at the NATO Summit, the French senator said that Europe "needs to be sensitive to the way Mr. Putin thinks". She emphasized that the decisions tell Russia about "some red lines, that are not to be crossed".

"There's no reason why we should be antagonizing the situation, to tease President Putin. President Putin uses international affairs for his own internal politics. So I think we need to be firm as to what we stand for, what is not acceptable for us. That should be very clear and, I think, it is very clear to him and not go beyond that (...). I think, Russia knows very well that the texts are and what limits are," she said in Vilnius.

"That's why France believes in dialogue with Russia: the Russians are very much involved in Syria and they are doing a very good job, their army targeting ISIS, as well. So, we need the Russians for Iran. They are a big country that we cannot do without. We cannot ignore Russia, that would be wrong. So it is up to us to respect what they stand for, to see what irritates them and do not do it ourselves but, in return, to tell them what irritates us," said Conway-Mouret.

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