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Russia Slams US And NATO Intentions In Europe

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov.
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Nov 28, 2006
Russia was "deceived" by previous NATO enlargements and considers the expansion of a US defence system in Europe "destabilising", Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday. "We were simply deceived, they said one thing and did another," Ivanov told students during a visit to the northwest Russian city of Saint Petersburg, ITAR-TASS news agency reported.

Ivanov said Russia could not comment on the decision by sovereign states to join the alliance but added that the build-up of military infrastructure in the Baltic states did not help NATO aims of peacekeeping and counterterrorism.

In an interview published on Tuesday, Ivanov also criticised planned expansion of a US anti-missile defence system in Europe as a "destabilising" move that Russia would respond to.

The stated reason for expansion "is just cover for an attempt to undermine strategic stability and will have a destabilising influence on Russia's containment potential," Ivanov said.

In the interview with "Union State," a journal devoted to Russia-Belarus relations, Ivanov said that Russia was "not afraid" and would take the changes into account when building up its armed forces.

The Pentagon said in May that the United States is consulting European allies about deploying missile defences in Europe to thwart a Middle Eastern ballistic missile threat.

"I assure you we will find asymmetrical... ways to defend our national interests and guarantee the security of the union state" between Russia and Belarus, Ivanov said.

In 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland were the first former Soviet bloc states to join NATO. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined in 2004.

Georgia and Ukraine, two ex-Soviet republics, are both applying to join. On Tuesday, speaking ahead of a NATO summit, US President George W. Bush said the door of the alliance was open to them.

earlier related report
Shadow of Russia looms large over NATO summit
Riga (AFP) Nov 28 - Some 15 years after NATO saw out the Cold War without firing a shot, the shadow of Russia was still looming large on Tuesday over a meeting of the new-look military alliance's 26 members in Riga.

With much of the attention focused on NATO's troubled mission in Afghanistan, Russia was a notable sub-issue due to its new energy superpower status and uneasiness at the alliance's inexorable enlargement eastwards.

Moscow is an "important and privileged partner," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said ahead of a working dinner in the Latvian capital of heads of state to kick off the summit.

"That is why rejuvenating NATO-Russia relations is another major step in finishing Europe's unfinished business. From operations to cooperation in areas of common interest -- such as terrorism or missile defence -- the NATO-Russian relationship also has much unexploited potential," Scheffer said.

US President George W. Bush, too, highlighted the importance of cooperation with Russia in his address at Riga University ahead of the summit.

"We recognise Russia as a vital and important country and it is in our interests to increase our cooperation with Russia in areas such as counter-terrorism and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction," Bush said.

Both Scheffer and Bush did not refrain, however, from encouraging former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia in their ambitions to join NATO -- comments likely to be frowned on by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was keeping an eye on proceedings from a summit of the CIS group of ex-Soviet states in Minsk.

Mass protests earlier this year against NATO manoeuvres in the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea, which has a sizeable ethnic Russian population and the base of its Black Sea fleet, were stirred up by Russia, Ukraine alleges.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, meanwhile, believes Russia has been stoking separatist movements in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and even alleges Moscow has a "regime change" policy in Tbilisi.

But both sides are keen to paper over such differences as Russia moves closer to World Trade Organisation membership and as Europe seeks to secure energy supplies -- a key security issue for NATO in the 21st century.

"Russia's shut off of energy deliveries to Ukraine (earlier this year) demonstrated how tempting it is to use energy to achieve political aims and underscored the vulnerability of consumer nations to their energy suppliers," US Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Dick Lugar said in Riga on Monday.

"Russia retreated from the standoff after a strong Western reaction, but how would NATO have responded if Russia had maintained the embargo? The Ukrainian economy and military could have been crippled without a shot being fired, and the dangers and losses to several NATO member nations would have mounted significantly," Lugar warned.

The move by Russian energy giant Gazprom to switch off the natural gas taps to Ukraine in January amid a price war, affected some European supplies.

Putin may in fact make a surprise appearance in Riga, having invited himself to a dinner for French President Jacques Chirac's 74th birthday on Wednesday, according to the Elysee Palace.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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