Russian general says West targets 'Slav unity'

MOSCOW, Apr 25, 2000 -- (Reuters) A senior Russian general accused the West on Monday of trying to drive Slav nations apart and said Moscow was in no hurry to boost relations with NATO.

Leonid Ivashov, head of the Defense Ministry's international relations department, said the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia, criticism of Belarus's human rights record and overtures made to Ukraine proved the West was working to split Slav nations.

"A fight against Slav unity is gathering pace," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying at a presentation in the lower house of parliament of a book dedicated to NATO's 11-week air campaign against Yugoslavia.

Ivashov, treating NATO, the United States and the West as one bloc, said the group had swooped on Ukraine as an easy target in the Slav bloc and was trying to drive a wedge between Kiev and its ex-Soviet neighbors.

"It is pandering to get the Russian and the Ukrainian peoples to quarrel, and to woo Kiev," he said, adding that he had information which suggested that Washington was keeping several conflicts simmering in Ukraine and planned to rekindle them when necessary.

Russia and Belarus have signed a vague union treaty, which Yugoslavia has also volunteered to join. Ukraine has moved to forge closer ties with the West.

Ivashov, a hard-line general known for his belligerent anti-Western rhetoric, called on all Slavs to stick together, saying Washington was using internal conflicts in other countries to cement its domination in the world.

He said Moscow had no plans to step up cooperation with NATO despite a formal unfreezing of relations last month when President-elect Vladimir Putin welcomed NATO Secretary-General George Robertson in the Kremlin.

The military was strongly against the meeting.

"We will not rush into NATO's embraces," Ivashov said, adding that opening a representative office for NATO in Moscow was not on the agenda.

He said some low-level cooperation with the bloc was unfolding but that Moscow had to be given a bigger say in Europe for it to intensify.

"If it is all just meetings and toasts and Russia remains on the backtrack of European affairs, one can presume there will be no cooperation with NATO," he said.

Original article