MOSCOW – Russia's foreign minister said Tuesday that Moscow will do all it can to prevent ex-Soviet neighbors Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO.
Sergey Lavrov warned that the two nations' bids to join the alliance could worsen Moscow's relations with the countries supporting them.
"We will do all we can to prevent Ukraine's and Georgia's accession into NATO and to avoid an inevitable serious exacerbation of our relations with both the alliance and our neighbors," Lavrov said on Ekho Moskvy radio.
A NATO summit in Bucharest last week has failed to grant Ukraine and Georgia a roadmap to membership despite strong support from the United States. Germany, France and some other alliance members opposed the move, fearing it would strain ties with Moscow. NATO, however, has promised to incorporate both nations in the future.
Lavrov denounced the alliance expansion plans as rooted in Cold War logic. "This is enlargement in the spirit of that very Cold War logic, the spirit of bloc confrontation, and the spirit of bloc absorption of territories," he said.
Lavrov pointed at divisions in Ukraine over the NATO's membership bid and emphasized that Georgia's breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia denounced the move.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has vowed to broaden Russian support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and warned Georgia and the West against the use of force or pressure to bring them back under central government control.
The Kremlin-controlled parliament last month urged the government to consider recognizing the independence claims of the two separatist provinces, which broke from government control in early 1990s wars.
Putin, however, has stopped short of saying Russia would recognize their independence — a move that would severely damage ties with the West and could spark a war with Georgia. He gave no indication that Russia would abandon its official acceptance of Georgia's territorial integrity.
On Tuesday, Georgian officials strongly criticized a letter sent by Russia's Justice Ministry to Abkhazian authorities regarding prisoners' transfer. Georgia's Foreign Ministry denounced the letter as part of Russia's "destructive policy" and "creeping annexation of a sovereign state."