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Lavrov warns Moscow will not turn NATO-Russia Council into battlefield

Russia and NATO have begun cautious exchange of information on military exercises, the Russian foreign minister also stressed
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Artyom Korotayev/TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© Artyom Korotayev/TASS

MOSCOW, March 9. /TASS/. Moscow has no intention of indulging into child’s play that would turn the NATO-Russia Council into a battlefield, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday following talks with his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel.

"I agree with Sigmar Gabriel that we need to talk with each other and try to understand each other’s real, not imaginary concerns," the minister noted. "One cannot slam the door the way it was done after Georgia’s aggression in the Caucasus in 2008, when our NATO partners refused to continue work in the NATO-Russia Council. The same mistake was repeated after the coup in Ukraine."

"And only a couple of years later they began saying, "Let’s resume the work of the NATO-Russia Council," Lavrov said. "We said, ‘All right, let’s do it. Three council meetings at the ambassadorial level have been held since then."

"However, if our counterparts in the alliance tell us every time, ‘Yes, we will gather in the NATO-Russia Council, but we will only discuss Ukraine,’ that will be a continuation of this paranoid aggressive policy. NATO has nothing to do with efforts on the Ukrainian settlement," Lavrov said. "If the essence of these ideas is using the NATO-Russia Council for another confrontation, we do not want to indulge in such games," the Russian minister emphasized.

"When it comes to such essential issues as, for example, security in the airspace over the Baltic Sea and the Baltic region in general…," Lavrov noted. "Last summer our military in the NATO-Russia Council, in response to specific appeals from our Western counterparts, provided concrete proposals on how to ensure this security, and those who urged us to take some steps on ensuring security in the Baltic region went silent. We’ve been trying to receive specific response to these suggestions to date."

"So, if we discuss Ukraine everywhere, and we do know how the NATO member-countries discuss it, I believe this will not help us move towards the goal described by Sigmar Gabriel in the following way: to understand each other better and seek the balance of interests," Russia’s top diplomat emphasized. "We are fully ready for the balance of interests and hope that the assurances made by our Western partners from time to time that they are interested in ironing out relations will be implemented on the basis of mutual respect and on the basis of a desire to find this balance of interests." 

On NATO activity 

NATO is moving the dividing lines that have been promised and pledged by all to be eliminated closer to Russia, Lavrov said: 

"It turns out that we’re reacting to the situation that we are actually being surrounded by NATO armaments, NATO units". 

"Units of the ground forces, NATO countries, including, incidentally, Germany, are emerging directly on our borders in what is seen as the latest developments taking place by decision of the alliance’s Warsaw summit," Lavrov said.

"When we urge to return to the logic, which was laid down at OSCE summits and at Russian-NATO Council summits and which says that no one will strengthen its security at the expense of others, we are told that this is a political slogan and there is no sense in sealing it legally and, all the more so, discussing it in practice," the Russian foreign minister went on to say.

"So what do you want from us? Do you want us to say: for God’s sake, we apologize, we’re guilty? We have a somewhat different assessment," Lavrov said.

"There has been no shortage of initiatives [from Russia], including a treaty on European security, the draft of which we submitted several years ago and which our Western colleagues refused to discuss, saying that the political slogan of equal security remained a political slogan while legal guarantees of equal security could be obtained only in NATO," Lavrov said.

"Isn’t this the violation of all commitments assumed after cold war? This actually means preserving and moving closer to Russia the dividing lines, which have been promised and pledged by all to be eliminated," Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister drew attention to the words by German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen "who recently said in some interview that Russia was not interested in stable Europe."

"Here there are two amusing aspects," Lavrov said. "The first one is that all what we proposed and are proposing for the development of the concept of equal and indivisible security is completely ignored. And, secondly, it turns out that Russia is not Europe. But I leave these estimates to the conscience of the defense minister," Lavrov said.