Self-determination for all, but respect for Russia’s interests

A month ago at a meeting between the military leadership of the GUAM coalition (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova) in Tbilisi, there was a discussion of a proposal to set up a joint military force along the lines of NATO. What do you think of this? It is possible that, along with other issues discussed at that meeting, which included experts from the defense ministries of Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan (Moldavia was not represented), the question of some kind of joint military unit within the GUAM organization was discussed, most probably in the form of a peace mission. I should say that we have information that over the past two years Tbilisi has repeatedly taken such initiatives. Generally, the Georgian authorities, with the support of a number of advanced Western countries, are trying to give GUAM precisely such a military-political dimension. This is mostly due to the fact that Tbilisi is interested in the eventual use of the organization’s military forces in peacekeeping activities, with the ultimate aim of replacing Russian forces in Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. At the same time, the existence of additional forces on Georgian territory gives that country’s leaders the opportunity of making a show of force at any time, as recently happened in the Kodori Gorge, since it also allows them to be used in Georgia’s dispute with Sukhumi and in the Tshinvali area. Naturally Russia, which is in favor of settling these specific conflicts only through the use of political means, will take the appropriate measures to avert the enactment of the above-mentioned scenario. The GUAM peace force will be planned not only for use in Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia but in Trans-Dneister and Nagorno Karabakh. I am certain that these kinds of «peacekeeping services,» coming from a prejudiced organization, cannot be acceptable in any way to either side in a settlement process. It would be much more fruitful to seek political ways to resolve these so-called «frozen disputes.» How does Russia view the possibility of former Soviet states joining NATO? Russia’s position with regard to the expansion of NATO remains unchanged. In our view, this process is not a response to any of the real challenges the states of Europe are facing, particularly the countries in the former Soviet bloc. One has to admit that the expansion of the alliance is being carried out under a complete lack of any attempt to adapt this military and political union to a new European-Atlantic reality. The change is chiefly being brought about by improving the structure of NATO’s administration by strengthening the states’ military budgets, by standardizing their armed forces and their armaments and by restructuring the troops. At the same time, we have not been unaware of the mobilization of the leadership of certain states in Russia’s immediate environment that are trying to join the alliance at all costs. However, as with the example of the inhabitants of the Crimea who protested the holding of NATO’s «Sea Breeze» exercise on their territory, the people do not always share the authorities’ views regarding a future for their states in NATO. In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that Russia is not against the growth of NATO, even to some extent its numerical enlargement. We understand the open-door policy for the entry of new members to the alliance, just as we do not doubt the sovereign right of every state to participate in one or another international organization. Nevertheless, we insist that Russia’s legal interests be taken into account during this process.