/ 28 March 2008

Kremlin: Nato ties hinge on Ukraine-Georgia issue

The fate of bids by ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia to join Nato will show if the Western alliance is serious about cooperating with Russia or bent on going it alone, a Kremlin spokesperson said on Friday. Dmitry Peskov said that despite its longstanding status as a partner of Nato, Moscow was still at a loss about the alliance’s plans, alarmed by some of its actions and unconvinced by assurances that its actions were not directed against Russia.

”The realisation of an ‘open door’ policy towards Ukraine and Georgia will be a sign for us that the West has made its choice in favour of unilateral actions rather than forming Trans-European institutions,” Peskov said.

His comments to Reuters were the latest in a barrage of criticism from Moscow before a Nato summit in Romania next week at which Ukraine and Georgia will seek to win Membership Action Plans — roadmaps for eventually joining the alliance.

President-elect Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview published this week that the situation surrounding the two countries was ”extremely troublesome for the existing structure of European security”.

Outgoing leader Vladimir Putin will attend the Nato summit.

”The nature of global threats has dramatically changed since Nato was formed. But the ideology of its transformation has not been worked out yet and it is unclear to us where Nato is going,” Peskov said.

Russia says it is ready to cooperate with former Cold War adversary Nato on issues like counter-terrorism, nuclear proliferation and drug-trafficking. But it says the cooperation should be equal, taking into account both sides’ interests.

Nato leaders say Russia should not have a say when the alliance decides on expansion plans, including those concerning Georgia and Ukraine, traditionally viewed by Moscow as part of its sphere of influence but now run by pro-Western governments.

Peskov said this approach only fuelled Moscow’s suspicions. ”The expansion policy disunites states,” he said. ”Any country which is not a member of the bloc and does not take part in forming its policy, feels a threat to its security,” he said.

”What has Russia won from the previous Nato expansion eastwards? Have the new member states felt stronger security?” he added. ”Nato planes are in the Baltic states patrolling our borders, new bases are being opened in Bulgaria and Romania.”

Peskov said long-running mutual distrust was another source of Moscow’s suspicions.

”Suffice to remember that in the recent past Nato dealt with international law, the UN Charter, without showing too much reverence,” he said in a clear reference to Nato’s bombing of Serbia without United Nations approval in 1999.

”When we see that an organisation is not committed to international law, its statements that it does not threaten Russia do not impress us,” he added. – Reuters