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NATO expansion a „huge mistake,” Russian Foreign Minister says

The expansion of NATO to Russia's borders is a „huge mistake” that benefits no one and doesn't make the world safer, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

„We are convinced that the enlargement, by inertia, doesn't have a well-argued foundation, and doesn't contribute to an increase in security of the countries joining North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), nor of the organization itself, nor, of course, of Russia,” Lavrov said in an interview published on the ministry's Web site today. „In other words, NATO enlargement is a huge mistake by all those who thought it up and implemented it,” he said in the interview, which was originally given to the military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda, or Red Star.

Three former Soviet republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have already joined the 26-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Another two, Ukraine and Georgia, are seeking membership. A number of former members of the Warsaw Pact, the Cold War-era military alliance dominated by the Soviet Union, have also joined, raising Russian concerns about the growing reach of its old military rival. Georgia and Ukraine elected West-leaning leaders after revolutions in 2003 and 2004, and both put NATO membership among their foreign policy priorities.

Russia is engaged in a trade dispute with Georgia, blocking imports of wine, water, fruit and vegetables from the country in the South Caucasus, and sealing their joint border. „Who could represent a threat to Ukraine and Georgia?” Lavrov said. „Why are they rushing in Tbilisi to join NATO so quickly? Is it to bring a real contribution to the alliance's activity in regional security, or to resolve current issues in bilateral relations with Russia?” „We are for strengthening trust in relations with NATO, but against the creation of new dividing lines in Europe,” Lavrov said. (Bloomberg)