The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the phantom 'Russian threat' is merely an invented excuse for NATO expansion
Sorry Cold War warriors itching for a bloodbath with the Russians, the Wild East isn’t rolling into the Wild West anytime soon–unless provoked, so says Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The big problem is that Russia is indeed feeling provoked.
“Our attitude to NATO enlargement and the expansion of the so-called affiliate program with the moving of NATO military infrastructure closer to our borders has not changed,” Lavrov was quoted as saying in RIA News on Monday. “The doctrines of our security are clearly written and one of the main threats is the further expansion of NATO to the east,” he said. ”We don’t consider the existence of NATO a threat, or the way in which the military alliance works in practice. But there is no doubt among serious analysts here that NATO has seized on the (crisis in) Ukraine…to discriminate against Russian in order to invent new reasons for the existence of the alliance,” Lavrov told local reporters today.
Russia has been locking horns with the West since the February 2014 ousting of Viktor Yanukovych, then Ukraine’s president. Yanukovych was removed from power following massive political protests against his decisive lean towards Russia at the expense of a trade deal with the European Union. That deal was seen as a way to move Ukraine closer to the orbit of the E.U., much in the way the Baltics have gravitated towards Scandinavia’s sphere of influence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Sanctions were imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea, a southeastern peninsula that is home to Russia’s Black Sea Navy fleet. The two year anniversary of sanctions on Russian banks and energy company’s is coming up next month. Those economic pressures, coupled with weak oil prices, have led to back-to-back years of GDP contraction in Russia.
Russia’s government is not pleased with NATO’s expansion, which NATO says is primarily a defense mechanism and not an offensive against Russia.
Of the current crop of presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton is the biggest anti-Russia war hawk, having warned numerous times that the Russians are a threat to the Baltics. For the Russians, the presidential front-runner is likely to spar with Russia over a Baltic invasion that simply does not exist, meaning U.S. sanctions on Russia are unlikely to go away under a Clinton presidency.
The removal of sanctions are based on an agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus last year that calls for Russia to stop backing anti-government rebels in Eastern Ukraine regions like Donbass. Fighting rages on there. The agreement does not include Russia returning Crimea to Ukraine. While the Ukrainians have also failed to hold up to their end of the bargain in allowing for elections in the region, Russia shares the bulk of this burden.
Nevertheless, NATO’s strengthening its presence in Eastern Europe is Russia’s fault, says former U.S. ambassador to Moscow and Stanford University professor Michael McFaul. “The alliance has to reflect the threat from Russia, and NATO has taken a series of measures to do this,” he said inan interview with Estonian media outlet Postimees.
McFaul called out Russian diplomats who like to insist that the post-World War II creation of NATO came with a guarantee that the military alliance would not spread eastward into former Soviet bloc territories. McFaul said, “Russians always talk about this document. I haven’t seen this anywhere in writing.”