Good intentions temporary, military potential permanent – Lavrov
Responding to European criticism over Russia’s recent announcement that it will deploy short-range ballistic missiles in Kaliningrad unless an agreement on missile defense is reached, Moscow insists it reserves the right to protect its territory.
"Russia wants our partners to respect our right to ensure the security of our territory exclusively by our own forces," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a NATO-Russia Council ministerial meeting in Brussels on Thursday. "And when NATO missile defence elements are planned to be deployed so as to leave exposed a considerable part of the Russian territory, of course, we will have questions."
Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s request that NATO provide legal guarantees that the system will never be aimed at Russian territory, while reminding the alliance of Russia's military potential to protect its territory.
"Apart from common words on trust and guarantees that missile defense is not directed against us, juridical guarantees must be given because good intentions are temporary while the military-technical potential is permanent,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russia's permanent envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, who met with US Permanent Representative on the NATO Council Ivo Daalder and US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon, dismissed a US proposal for a so-called adapted sectoral missile defense system as "a lot of drivel."
Rogozin asked the American diplomats to explain the essence of the adapted sectoral missile defense initiative that Daalder had mentioned in an interview with Kommersant, the Russian daily.
"There's nothing new about it," Rogozin told Interfax on Thursday. "Just a lot of drivel."
Russia’s frustration with the negotiation process, which has thus far failed to produce any sort of agreement that brings Russia on board the missile defense project, was summed up by Lavrov who said that NATO is not ready for serious co-operation with Russia.
"Our partners from NATO are not ready for serious co-operation on a whole range of issues, including missile defense," Lavrov told a press briefing following talks with NATO foreign ministers.
NATO officials, however, continued to utter the same empty promises that are driving the talks into an impossible and potentially dangerous impasse.
"NATO's missile defence system is not directed against Russia,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General, said. “We do not consider Russia an enemy, we do not consider Russia an adversary, we consider Russia a partner, and we want to develop a true strategic partnership as we decided one year ago in Lisbon.”
Rasmussen went on to say that “it is part of that true strategic partnership that we also co-operate on missile defence.”
The NATO General seemed genuinely incredulous at Moscow's argument that the system could become a security concern in some indeterminate future.
“We have reiterated it is not directed against Russia, and invited Russia to co-operate so that they can see with their own eyes that it is not directed against Russia," he said.
The NATO chief then suggested that Russia and NATO reaffirm at the Chicago summit, scheduled for May 2012, their commitment not to use force against each other .
In 1997, Russia and NATO approved the Founding Act, which was the first document to lay out the groundwork for NATO-Russia relations.
Rasmussen hailed his offer “a serious political statement, a serious political guarantee.” However, NATO’s top official did not say if the 28-member military bloc would be willing to formally legalize the document, as demanded by Russia.
Aside from the issue of European missile defense, Russia expressed its concern over the possibility of the “Libyan scenario” being repeated in future conflicts.
"NATO proposes to consider the Libyan model an example,” Lavrov said. “We categorically are against this."
At the same time, he said, "Russia is holding the conversation on Libya with NATO in order to understand the Alliance's new strategic concept."
In March 2011, the United Nations adopted Security Council Resolution 1973, which opened the door for NATO military intervention in Libya. Although the resolution limited the Alliance to actions that protected civilians, Russia and other countries, accused NATO of overstepping its mission, taking sides with the rebel forces and causing many deaths with its air strikes.
On 28 October 2011, there was global condemnation following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, who was summarily executed after being discovered near Sirte, the place of his birth.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin slammed NATO forces following the death of the Libyan leader, asking: "Who gave them the right to kill him?"
Clearly, Russia is becoming increasingly concerned over the direction NATO has taken of late, and the standoff on missile defense is only adding to those sentiments.