NATO Enlargement Unpleasant To Russia

MOSCOW, Russia -- The expansion of NATO to include former Soviet republics is "not a pleasant thing" to Russia but it is "not so disastrous either," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in an interview.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov

"The Russian leadership takes the line that each sovereign state has the right to decide for itself how to build its own security," Ivanov told the Italian newspaper La Stampa in an interview, which was posted on the ministry's website.

"However, such moves should not weaken the security of its neighbors and nearby states, including, of course, Russia," Ivanovsaid.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has made membership in NATO and the European Union a strategic goal of his country. The Caucasus Mountain nation of Georgia has also opted for accession to NATO.

Ivanov described Ukraine and Georgia's bids to join NATO as "their legitimate right," but said that for Russia, the accession of Ukraine to this alliance is "especially sensitive" because the shared historical and cultural values, the unity of interests and numerous family ties give a special character to relations between the two peoples.

But Ivanov also said: "We are not dramatizing the situation by relying on Cold War stereotypes, based on a standoff between blocs, as these are becoming a thing of the past, while cooperation between Russia with NATO is becoming more extensive year by year."

Ivanov flew to the Italian island of Sicily on Thursday for a defense ministers' meeting of the Russia-NATO Council.

Russia has also sent warships to join a NATO-led anti-terrorist operation in the Mediterranean.

Source: Xinhua

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