NEW YORK (Reuters) - An ideological gulf has opened between the West and Russia after the war in Georgia, one that requires a more forceful response from the European Union and NATO, Poland’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
In a speech at Columbia University, Radoslaw Sikorski said NATO must get back to the basics of exerting its role as a military organisation in light of the war.
Sikorski called Russia’s August military foray into Georgia a challenge to the European Union’s unstated ideology of abolishing borders in order to avoid war.
“I think there is a profound ideological difference between the European Union and the Russian Federation,” he told an audience of diplomats, students and journalists.
“Russia, through its deeds, has shown that it lives in a different century,” Sikorski said. “Russia has thrown us an ideological challenge.”
Moscow was roundly condemned by the international community after invading Georgia last month, having already repelled Tbilisi’s attempt to re-establish control over its breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Soon afterward, Warsaw and Washington signed a deal to station parts of a U.S. missile defence shield on Polish soil. Washington says it is for defence against rogue states such as Iran, but Moscow was infuriated by having missiles on its doorstep.
One top Russian general was quoted by Russian news agency Interfax as saying Poland’s decision to host the interceptor missiles made it a target for a possible nuclear strike.
“Of course we don’t like it when the Russian president or Russian generals threaten us with nuclear annihilation. It is not a friendly thing to do, and we have asked them to do it no more than once a month. But as the Atlantic alliance we have nukes too,” Sikorski said, drawing laughter from the audience.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in July his country would robustly defend its interests abroad.
Sikorski, calling it the “Medvedev Doctrine,” said the implications were worrying for countries with large ethnic Russian populations such as Ukraine and the Baltic states.
“Any further attempt to redraw borders in Europe by force or by subversion will be regarded by Poland as an existential threat to our security and should entail a proportional response by the whole Atlantic community,” Sikorski said.
“We need to make NATO’s traditional security guarantees credible again,” he said. “NATO needs to recover its role, not just as an alliance but as a military organisation.”
Editing by Doina Chiacu