Wed, Sep 05, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Russian foreign minister lays out policy `red lines'

WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS Sergei Lavrov's comments came as Russia announced it was resuming long-range bomber patrols that Moscow had mothballed in 1992

AFP , MOSCOW

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underlined Russia's increasingly muscular foreign policy on Monday, laying out a series of non-negotiable "red line" issues including Kosovo and US missile defense.

"There are so-called `red line' issues for Russia," Lavrov said in a speech to students at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. "There we cannot fail to react and we must stick to our position to the end."

Lavrov specified Kosovo -- where Russia opposes Western proposals to grant the province independence from Serbia -- and opposition to US missile defense plans for Central Europe as areas where Moscow would not "horse trade."

His comments were the latest sign of hawkish Russian opposition to key areas of US foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin, who is using massive oil and gas revenues to rebuild Russia's military and restore its diplomatic clout.

Lavrov said some were worried by "the rapid rebirth of our country as one of the leading countries of the world ... However, this does not mean that it's necessary to think up yet another myth about the Russian threat."

He also used his speech -- an annual occasion marking the start of the academic year at Russia's most prestigious international affairs institute -- to attack a probe by key US ally Britain into the murder of fugitive Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko.

Lavrov dismissed attempts to extradite a KGB veteran over the radiation poisoning in London last year as "a noisy propaganda show."

"Great Britain has become a voluntary, or involuntary actor in a provocation against Russia," he said.

The Kremlin has already shown itself ready to play hardball on Kosovo and missile defense.

Russian officials have threatened that Moscow could recognize the independence of separatist areas in Georgia, a Western ally, should Kosovo be allowed to become independent.

Washington has also taken a tough line on Kosovo, suggesting it could unilaterally recognise independence for the province if the UN fails to do so.

Lavrov's inclusion of missile defense added to a deepening diplomatic row over Washington's wish to deploy a missile-tracking radar in the Czech Republic and anti-missile rockets in Poland.

Russia says the system is aimed at its own massive nuclear force. Washington insists the target is smaller "rogue state" military powers posing a potential threat to Europe, such as Iran or North Korea.

Lavrov said "the world needs a capable Russia" and that the West should take care to avoid provoking confrontation.

Lavrov's speech came as 12 Russian strategic bomber planes began a two-day exercise over Russia's Arctic north.

The Tu-95MC bombers are carrying out "tactical" exercises in the north of Russia, including the Arctic Circle, and will conduct "tactical launches of cruise missiles," the air force said in a statement.

Last month Putin announced that Russia was permanently resuming the Soviet-era practice of long-range bomber patrols -- frozen in 1992 because of lack of money -- far from Russian territory, adding to US-Russian tensions.

This story has been viewed 2439 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top