Top Russian defence officials lashed out at the United States Thursday, accusing it of undermining global security by funding revolutions and expanding NATO in a bid to contain Russia.
Speaking at a conference in Moscow attended by his counterparts from North Korea, Greece and Pakistan, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the world order needs to be redefined in a speech that focused heavily on the perceived threat from the United States.
“We live in a watershed moment of history. We are the ones to determine the parameters of world order,” Shoigu told the annual Conference on International Security.
“We are concerned that the stability constructed after World War II is beginning to careen,” he said. “Some countries who consider themselves winners in the Cold War are attempting to dictate their will to others.”
Frequently using the term “some countries” to refer to the United States and its closest allies, Shoigu accused Washington of destabilising the post-Soviet sphere by luring countries away from Russia with investment and supporting popular uprisings.
“The main goal is to tear away from Russia the countries tied to it by culture and history,” he said.
“Of course, the biggest tragedy among the ‘colour revolutions’ is Ukraine,” Shoigu said, contrasting the “peaceful” transition of Crimea to Russia with “violent propagation of the European choice” by Kiev’s current leadership.
Russia deployed its special forces in February to Crimea, formally annexing it from Ukraine in March, shortly after the uprising in the Ukrainian capital led to the ouster of pro-Moscow former president Viktor Yanukovych.
The chain of events unravelled into a year-long conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Kiev, which has claimed over 6,000 lives. Moscow has denied Western claims the Kremlin is supporting the insurgency.
“NATO countries are seeking to seize geopolitical space, building up military potential in Eastern Europe and drawing closer to Russia,” Shoigu said.
The sharp remarks were a contrast to President Vladimir Putin’s statements that Russia’s only enemies are terrorism and organised crime.
“We don’t consider anyone an enemy among participants of global dialogue,” he said Thursday in his annual phone-in session with the nation.
– ‘Defensive alliance’ –
Shoigu’s speech was echoed by a report on threats to Russia by chief of its General Staff Valery Gerasimov, also heavily focused on the “growing military potential” of NATO and the decision by the US to “reshape the world to its liking” in a quest for “absolute domination.”
“One cannot but notice the negative effect on Russia’s military security” of NATO’s continuing expansion eastward, Gerasimov said, accusing it of holding drills and other activities near Russian borders.
“Clearly NATO’s measures to strengthen the bloc and increase its military capabilities are not of a defensive nature,” he said.
However NATO denied the charges and insisted it remained a “defensive alliance”.
“In response to Russia’s actions, we have increased our military presence in the eastern part of our alliance”, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement.
Lungescu also denied allegations made by Russian officials that NATO had deployed a missile defence system “directed against Russia”.
“Geography and physics make it impossible for the NATO system to shoot down Russian intercontinental missiles from NATO sites in Romania or Poland,” she said.