MOSCOW, May 13 (RIA Novosti) – A secret cable released by Wikileaks on Tuesday revealed that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Washington as far back as 2008 that US-EU-NATO meddling in Ukraine could split the country in two.
“Following a muted first reaction to Ukraine’s intent to seek a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the Bucharest summit (ref A), Foreign Minister Lavrov and other senior officials have reiterated strong opposition, stressing that Russia would view further eastward expansion as a potential military threat,” said the 2008 cable classified by William Burns, than US Ambassador to Moscow and currently the US Deputy Secretary of State.
“NATO enlargement, particularly to Ukraine, remains ‘an emotional and neuralgic’ issue for Russia, but strategic policy considerations also underlie strong opposition to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene,” the cable said.
The Russian foreign minister also emphasized that Moscow was convinced that the alliance’s enlargement was not based on security reasons, but instead was a legacy of the Cold War. Moreover, he warned, joining NATO was unlikely to strengthen democratic governments.
“Russia understood that NATO was in search of a new mission, but there was a growing tendency for new members to do and say whatever they wanted simply because they were under the NATO umbrella – e.g. attempts of some new member countries to ‘rewrite history and glorify fascists,’” the cable said.
Burns’ remarkable insight, perception and understanding of the regional complexities continued:
“Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region … Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face.”
Ukraine and Georgia have lobbied to become NATO members for years, enjoying full support for their bids from the US, but alliance members rejected a proposal to offer them membership at a NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said earlier the alliance will boost air patrols over Eastern Europe and dispatch extra ships to the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas due to the crisis in Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that NATO was attempting to use the Ukrainian crisis as a pretext to unite the alliance’s members and to push for Moscow’s isolation.
In February, the Ukrainian parliament backed by far-right movements ousted from power President Viktor Yanukovych, amended the constitution and scheduled an early presidential election for May 25. The US and Europe have voiced support for the the coup-appointed goverment. Russia has described the uprising in Kiev as an illegitimate fascist coup and a military seizure of power that resulted in Moscow taking steps to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine and reunify with Crimea following a referendum in the region.
Rallies in support of federalization have been rocking the southeastern regions of the country since March. The special operation launched by the Kiev regime to crack down on the protesters has led to violent clashes with dozens of casualties. Moscow has condemned the operation as a dangerous development of events.
On Sunday, popular referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk saw voters overwhelmingly back the move to separate from Kiev. The decision was immediately declared illegal by the US and EU.