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MOSCOW, May 13. /TASS/. U.S. will unlikely continue pressing forward with the idea of Ukraine and Georgia’s absorption into NATO but the expansion of the North-Atlantic pact may occur through the incorporation of Balkan and, quite possibly, Central Asian countries, a leading Russian expert said on Wednesday.
"As for Ukraine and Georgia, that’s the red line which the U.S. will unlikely step over," Dr. Pavel Zolotaryov, a deputy director of the Moscow-based Institute for the U.S. and Canada Studies said.
"There were two attempts (to incorporate these countries in NATO - TASS), in 2008 and in 2013, and I don’t think any new ones will be made," he said.
Along with this, Dr. Zolotaryov believes NATO’s expansion might spread to other regions, including the Balkans. "The prospect there is unambiguous, since the Balkan nations will seek to get NATO membership," he said.
He sees a number of objective reasons for this.
"All of them (Balkan nations - TASS) are small enough state but they will have to care for their defence and security," Dr. Zolotaryov said. "Membership of NATO will enable them to minimize these expenses. Recall that European countries spend less than 2% of their GDP for defense."
Such minimizations enable a country to develop the structure of a budget typical of developed nations where the expenditure for education, healthcare, and the social sector exceeds defense spending by a factor of several times, the expert said.
"That’s why the willingness of smaller countries to get some room for themselves under that umbrella is quite understandable," he said.
"It doesn’t mean someone’s bracing himself for war," Dr. Zolotaryov said. "This signals the efforts to cut down the defense spending."
He believes Central Asia is one more region where NATO’s expansion might spread to.
"This is linked to a willingness to secure a springboard in Asia, closer to China rather than to the attempts to squeeze Russia’s sphere of influence," Dr. Zolotaryov said.