Russia warns allies against imposing democratic values
By Stefan Wagstyl in London and Andrew Jack in Moscow
Published: March 5 2003 4:00 | Last Updated: March 5 2003 4:00
Russia yesterday warned the US and UK against planning regime change in Iraq and repeating the bitter experiences of the former Soviet Union in trying to force a new political order on the world.
"We are concerned about plans to impose democratic values upon entire peoples by force... The Soviet Union had its own deplorable record of imposing regimes of its liking and we all know the results," said Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, in exclusive comments to the Financial Times.
"The forced 'export of democracy' is likely to meet the same fate as the 'export of revolution'," he said.
"Unfortunately, experiments of this kind bear very high costs, especially for those peoples on which they are conducted."
Mr Ivanov was speaking during a visit to London, where he met Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, to discuss the Iraq crisis.
He said the US and the UK had changed the focus of their arguments from the United Nations-approved aim of disarming Iraq to changing the regime in Iraq and launching democratic changes in the Arab world. Attempts to impose political systems on Arab states would "play into the hands of extremists acting under radical Islamic slogans", said Mr Ivanov.
He repeated earlier hints that Russia would be ready to use its UN Security Council veto to stop any new resolution authorising the use of force. Russia would block any resolution that would "directly or indirectly" justify the use of force.
Arms inspectors were now working without any obstacles and should be allowed to continue, he said.
Russia would support the use of force only as a last resort, when no other means existed to eliminate a threat to international peace and security. "This is not the case with Iraq right now."
But Mr Ivanov tempered his tough line with conciliatory remarks emphasising that all Security Council members shared the same aim of disarming Iraq and having reliable guarantees that it would never again possess weapons of mass destruction. The preservation of unity on the council was vital to securing Iraq's co-operation.
Meanwhile in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin lent support to the Turkish parliament's decision to block US use of its military bases, in a further indication of his opposition to a war on Iraq. In comments to the Russian cabinet, Mr Putin signalled that the parliamentary vote was "the most important development of the past week".
Russia has been sending out a wide range of signals on its stance, with Mr Putin earlier this year saying that he could shift closer to the "tougher measures" of the US position if Saddam Hussein blocked weapons inspectors.
However, in the past few weeks he has allied Russia increasingly with France and Germany, stressing its opposition to war, a prolongation of weapons inspections and the need for diplomatic and political means to resolve the crisis.
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