Russia calls NATO sprawl "mechanical" and self-defeating
Lavrov, who kicked off a three-day Balkan tour that will include visits to Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Slovenia, said that Russia respects the right of other nations to enter these relationships.
“We respect the states’ sovereign right to define the schemes of their security, including through entering military and political alliances,” he stressed in an interview with the the Montenegro-based Pobeda newspaper. “But our attitude towards NATO’s expansion is well-known and independent of political considerations and the geography of the expansion.”
Lavrov then reminded his interviewer that the Cold War was a thing of the past and that ongoing efforts to expand the military bloc will not improve overall security.
"Plans for NATO's 'mechanical' expansion in an utterly different scenario, when the bi-polar world has ceased to exist, when there is no confrontation between two military blocs, will add security neither to the alliance's new members nor to the alliance as a whole," he emphasized.
The Russian foreign minister then advocated a “common space of peace” in the region built upon the foundation of democratic principles.
"Nowadays, we need possibilities to create, on collective, democratic principles, a common space of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region, which will make it possible to work out more efficient joint responses to actual rather than far-fetched challenges."
Lavrov appears to be hinting at US plans for building a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, which Washington says will protect the European continent from “a rogue missile strike.”
Moscow, which is adamant about becoming a full-fledged partner in the ambitious project, views the system as a potential security threat.
Meanwhile, NATO is attempting to sell Russia a two-system scheme.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen last week rejected Russia’s proposal for a unified missile shield with the alliance.
"We are thinking about two systems – one NATO's and one Russian – that will cooperate and exchange information to make us more secure," Rasmussen said.
It is to be hoped that Rasmussen is also thinking about an arms race smack in Europe, because that is exactly what this ill-conceived plan may provoke.
Meanwhile, Montenegro was granted a so-called Membership Action Plan in December 2009 and is expected to become the 29th member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by 2012.
"We are well aware of Podgorica's foreign policy priorities," Lavrovsaid ahead of his Balkan tour. "We see no problems over it striving for membership in the European Union if the people of Montenegro believe such integration will serve them good."
At the same time, the Russian minister stressed that this process should progress "without any constraint from outside" that may “exert pressure on the partners” and legally-guaranteed security for each state in the Euro-Atlantic region, "whether it is a member of any military and political alliance or not."
Moscow has vocalized such concerns in the past, saying that the European capitals deserve full protection regardless of their outside military and political affiliations.
First stop: Belgrade
Lavrov began his Balkan tour in Belgrade, where he discussed a strategic partnership agreement between Russia and Serbia.
"We have acknowledged the ascending trend and new quality of our relations, which is proved by the approval of a strategic partnership agreement due to be signed by our presidents in the nearest future," Lavrov told a press conference after talks with his Serbian counterpart Vuk Jeremic in the Serbian on Tuesday.
The Serbian side confirmed that the signing ceremony would take place in the Russian capital.
"Soon the Serbian president will visit Moscow at which time Russia and Serbia will sign a strategic partnership agreement," the Serbian minister said.
During his interview with the Montenegro-based paper, Lavrov stressed that the strategic partnership between Russia and Serbia is aimed against no one.
"We have nearly completed our work on the Declaration of Strategic Partnership between Russia and Serbia," the Russia minister said. “It outlines Moscow's and Belgrade's joint approaches to key issues of the bilateral agenda, common views on current problems and tendencies of global development…"
Lavrov added that the bilateral document was initiated during a meeting between President Dmitry Medvedev and his Serbian counterpart, President Boris Tadic, in October 2009.
Russia is also calling for a probe into a report by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) alleging the possibility of the Kosovo administration's involvement in trade in human organs, Lavrov said.
The shocking revelations came after a two-year investigation into a criminal underworld that traveled up the chain of command to the very door of Kosovo’s US-backed Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, the leader of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), and former political leader of the KLA.
The report by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty suggests that Thaci was the “boss” of the grisly trade.
"We want the report made to PACE by Mr. Marti on facts of illegal trade in human organs in Kosovo to be followed by an objective investigation," Lavrov told the press conference.
“Even less significant crimes sometimes lead to international investigations. There should not be any double standards here," he stressed.
The results of the report created an international sensation, especially since NATO forces fought on behalf of KLA forces against the Serbian army.
On March 24, 1999, NATO commenced an aerial bombardment on Yugoslavia, which lasted until June 10, 1999, when Belgrade finally surrendered to the coalition forces. The bombing campaign was heavily criticized for the number of civilian causalities the airstrikes caused.
Russia, China and other countries condemned the operation on the grounds that the “unilateral use of force constitutes a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter."
Ironically, Russia became the first peacekeeping force in the war zone after Russian paratroopers seized Slatina Airport in Pristina, Kosovo ahead of NATO forces.
Whether it will be the one to make NATO forces realize the folly of their undertaking as another question.