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West’s expansion to the east ruins historic chance at unification – Lavrov

Published time: May 23, 2014 06:19
Edited time: May 23, 2014 07:18
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov )

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov )

The Ukrainian crisis is a natural result of the West’s expansion of its influence eastwards at the expense of Russian interests, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. This stance ruins a historic chance for a unified continent.

The turbulence in Ukraine is reminiscent of the violence and bloodshed that Europe experienced in the 20th century, Lavrov told a security conference in Moscow.

“The European continent, which brought two global military catastrophes in the last century, is not demonstrating an example to the world of peaceful development and broad cooperation,” he said, adding that the situation wasn’t accidental, but rather “a natural result of the developments over the past quarter of a century.”

“Our Western partners rejected a truly historic chance to build a greater Europe in favor of border lines and the habitual logic of expanding the geopolitical space under their control to the East,” Lavrov stressed. “This is de facto a continuation of a policy of containing Russia in a softer wrapping.”

The West ignored Russia’s calls for cooperation and would not pursuit a challenge of bringing together different integration projects in Eurasia. Instead it was forcing nations historically close to Russia to choose between the East and the West.

Pro-Russian activists stand near an armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) that they said was captured from the Ukrainian army during a fight outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Lysychansk May 22, 2014.(Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)
“With Ukraine’s fragile political situation, this pressure was enough to trigger a massive crisis of statehood,” Lavrov pointed out.

But Ukraine is just one example of the destructive results that Western foreign policies bring, Lavrov said.

“The operations to change regimes in sovereign states and the foreign-orchestrated ‘color revolutions’ of different brands produce obvious damage to the international stability. The attempts to impose one’s own designs for internal reforms on other peoples, which don’t take into account national characteristics, to ‘export democracy’, impact destructively international relations and multiplies the number of flashpoints on the world map,”
he continued.

“Schemes based on advocating one’s exceptionalism, the use of double standards, pursuit of unilateral geopolitical outcomes in crisis situation, are widely used not only in Europe, but also in other regions,”
the minister said. “This undermines crisis mediation efforts.”

The problems in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and many other countries can only be solved through collective effort, and Russia stands for joining forces in tackling issues. A collective effort resulted in resent advances on the Iranian nuclear program and launched the dismantling of the Syrian chemical arsenal, Lavrov said. Meanwhile unilateral attempts to resolve the Arab-Palestinian conflict proved to be deficient.

Mechanical digger from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at work at an undisclosed location in Syria.(AFP Photo / Syrian Television)

“When crisis management on all directions requires collective effort, one can hardly understand the reasoning of those, who take decisions on limiting cooperation with Russia over responding to common challenges and threats,” he said. “It’s doubtful that this would rise the efficiency of combating terrorism, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, responding to natural and man-made disasters or erecting barriers to extremism.”

Lavrov stressed that a polycentric system of global security, in which parties respect each other’s interests, cultural differences and the right to self-determination is needed to build a just, safe and democratic world.

The foreign minister was speaking at an international security conference in Moscow, which brought together some 30 officials, military officers and experts from more than 40 countries, including China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Belarus. The Russian capital is hosting the event for the third time.

‘Color revolutions are like military operations’

Lavrov’s condemnation of color revolutions as an instrument of hostile international politics was mirrored by the Russian military at the conference. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the Ukrainian crisis is the latest example of such a revolution, and it follows the global trend for them to become more violent.

“After the forced ouster of the president with the help of foreign forces, [Ukraine] has practically slid into a civil war,” he said. “A hotspot if tension has been artificially created in the heart of Europe. This has negatively affected global security.”

Shoigu added that the scheme for fanning an internal conflict used in Ukraine is applicable to many countries, and Venezuela, “where the legitimate government is being opposed by a so-called democratic opposition fuelled from abroad,” appears to be a victim of the same approach.

But unlike the color revolutions of the 1990s and 2000s, which were relatively bloodless, the latest generation of such operations increasingly resembles military invasions, the Russian minister stressed. Now color revolutions lead to long-term destabilization rather than the simple regime change that the forces triggering them initially aim at.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.(AFP Photo / Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Meanwhile the head of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov accused the United States and its allies of initiating most of regional conflicts in recent history.

“The US cannot stomach the formation of new centers of power,” he stated. That’s why it uses a wide arsenal to ramp up regional tension, including unilateral sanctions, aid sent to West-allied forces, private military companies and ultimately the national military.

The general added that the Russian military will not leave without the new challenges that emerged amid the Ukrainian crisis.

“Some Western countries have ramped up anti-Russian rhetoric and are building up NATO troops in the Baltic, Poland and Romania, as well as military presence of the alliance in the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea,” Gerasimov said. “We cannot be indifferent to this and will have to take measures in response.”