German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday accused Russia of interfering in the domestic affairs of numerous nations in the region that are seeking closer ties to the EU.
“Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine are three countries in our eastern neighborhood that have taken sovereign decisions to sign an association agreement with the EU,” Merkel told German-language daily newspaper Die Welt in an interview.
“Russia is creating problems for all three of these countries,” she said, referring to “frozen conflicts” in breakaway regions including Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as Russian interference in eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s central government has shown its displeasure with Moldova’s pro-European course — confirmed in an election last week in which a pro-Russian candidate was prevented from participating — by blocking imports of Moldovan wines, vegetables and meat.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a “strategic partnership” agreement with Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, drawing strong criticism from NATO and the EU.
In addition to these actions, Merkel accused Moscow of trying to force nations in the western Balkans into economic and political dependence on the former superpower in a bid to regain influence in the region.
She defended her decision at a NATO summit in 2008 not to put Ukraine and Georgia on track for membership in the military alliance, but reaffirmed NATO’s commitment to defend nations in eastern Europe — such as Poland and the Baltic states — that are members.
“There is no reason to talk about a war in the Baltics. [However,] regardless, Article 5 of the NATO treaty — which sees an attack on one member as an attack on the alliance as a whole — stands,” Merkel said.
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