Russia warns West not to meddle in ex-Soviet Union

December 11, 2008

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia's foreign minister warned the West on Wednesday against meddling in its backyard, saying the U.S. and European countries must not advance their interests in the former Soviet Union at Russia's expense.

Sergey Lavrov told a group of foreign business leaders that Russia has no monopoly on relations with neighboring former Soviet republics, and said Moscow understands that the United States and European Union have legitimate interests in the region.
But, he said, the U.S. and EU must forge relations with former Soviet republics “through legal, understandable and transparent methods,” Lavrov said. “Behind-the-scenes meddling only creates a crisis situation. One must respect the people of these nations and give them the right to choose their own fate.”
Already long-deteriorating ties between Moscow and the West were badly damaged by Russia's August war with Georgia, a small ex-Soviet republic that has enjoyed strong U.S. backing and is seeking NATO membership.
Lavrov gave no examples of alleged meddling. But the U.S. and Europe have been courting ex-Soviet republics as they vie with Russia for access to Central Asian and Caspian Sea energy resources and seek ties with nations close to sources of concern such as Iran and Afghanistan.
Also, Russian leaders have suggested the U.S. encouraged Georgia to launch an offensive that sparked the five-day war, and say Washington has pressed to bring Ukraine closer to NATO despite significant opposition among its people.
Lavrov stressed Russia's opposition to U.S. missile defense plans and NATO expansion but indicated that Russia is eager for improved ties with the U.S. He suggested that it would be up to the administration of President-elect Barack Obama to make the first move.
“We are counting on the future administration of Barack Obama to confirm what he is now saying about the need to cooperate with Russia in fighting common threats — international terrorism and weapons proliferation,” Lavrov said.