Moscow has slammed NATO’s Secretary General for using the political crisis in Ukraine to mobilize the alliance’s member states against an imaginary Russian threat and justify the very existence of the bloc in the 21st century.
NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that Russia must pull back its troops from the border with Ukraine if Moscow wants a dialogue over the crisis in the country. He said there were an estimated 40,000 Russian troops near Ukraine.
On Wednesday, the US Air Force commander in charge of the NATO alliance’s military presence in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, said that US troops may soon be deployed to the region as tensions continue to worsen near the border between Ukraine and Russia.
Placing NATO troops on territories neighboring Russia would be a fragrant breach of the bloc’s international obligations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.
“The fact that under [Eastern European NATO member states’] pressure NATO are considering the issue of placing troops and hardware on the territories immediately adjacent to Russia is a breach of the NATO-Russia Founding Act and of the principles of the Vienna Convention,” Lavrov said. “If they want to break those treaties for the sake of satisfying completely unfounded fears, phobias and ambitions of the minority of [NATO] member states, it might be sending a clear signal, what goals this all procedure is really after.”
NATO has also limited access for Russian diplomats to its Brussels headquarters.
Speaking at a news conference during a visit to the Czech Republic, Rasmussen warned Russia against military action in Ukraine and threatening Moscow with “grave consequences” and “severe economic sanctions.”
In a commentary published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, diplomats accused Rasmussen of “zealously replicating” Cold War rhetoric, recalling NATO’s boss recent statement made at a seminar in Paris, dedicated to transformation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“The Secretary General’s constant accusations against Russia convince us that the alliance is attempting to use the crisis in Ukraine to close its ranks against an imaginary threat to NATO member states to strengthen demand for the alliance in the 21st century,” said the statement.
The document points out that despite Rasmussen’s constant emphasis on the “growing militarization of Russia,” the military budget of the Russian Federation is at least 10 times smaller than the combined NATO member states’ military spending.
Rasmussen has launched talks about reviewing a 1997 cooperation agreement with Russia and the subsequent Rome declaration of 2002. But NATO member states undermined the principles of international law by intervening into Serbia in 1999 and Libya in 2011, the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
The NATO member states pretend to be leading advocates of international law, but at the same time turn a blind eye to glaring misdeeds by extremists in Ukraine that led to the split of the country’s society, the Russian document states.
Russian diplomats noted they are not surprised at the fact that NATO tries to present itself as an “elite club” with “outstanding political legitimacy,” actually ignoring universal international institutions, such as the UN Security Council, and not respecting the generally recognized right of a nation for democratic expression of will and choice.
The ministry pointed out that over recent months all Rasmussen's remarks were confrontational and that he had not offered “any constructive agenda” for the rapid normalization of the situation in Ukraine “through the launch of an inclusive political process, based on democratic values, respect for human rights and minorities, which are so dear to Anders Fogh Rasmussen.”
Russian diplomats shared belief that such activities do not promote the deescalation of the situation in Ukraine, whereas the “double standards” attitude creates a direct threat to stability in the region.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement on Thursday that Russia “does not conduct any military activities on the territory of Ukraine.”
As western powers are searching for ways to politically punish Moscow for facilitating reunion with the former Ukraine’s Crimea autonomous region, Russia plans no economic sanctions against the west whatsoever.
Russian Federation has no intention to limit supply of any of its exports to the international market, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told RIA Novosti news agency.
No sanctions can make Russia change its policies, Shuvalov said.
“There are no such threats that could force President Putin or any political force [within Russia] to act as the US, Germany or other partners want,” he said.
At the same time, Shuvalov said he did not exclude the possibility of taking certain measures to counter sanctions, but such measures would not be aimed to inflict economic damage.
Russia’s government and president do not plan to retaliate in a way “where it hurts the most,” Shuvalov said.