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A Russian lawmaker on Wednesday said Moscow will look to repeal its recognition of the independence of former Soviet nations like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in an attempt to revoke their NATO protections.
State Duma deputy Yevgeny Fedorov told a Latvian news outlet that reversing Russia’s decision to recognize the Baltic States as sovereign would allegedly create legal grounds to force the alliance to divert to 1997 borders.
“The NATO Charter contains clause six, according to which the disputed territories cannot be included in the alliance. As soon as the territories of the Baltic countries are recognized as disputed, this will become the basis for the exclusion of the Baltic countries from NATO,” Fedorov said.
Last week Fedorov introduced legislation targeting Lithuanian sovereignty and claimed it illegally left the Soviet Union more than three decades ago.
Lithuania became the first republic to announce it would restore its independence from the collapsing USSR in March 1990 after being under Soviet control since 1940.
Moscow, under President Mikhail Gorbachev, acknowledged Lithuania’s sovereignty by September 1991.
Fedorov claimed that Lithuania was Russia’s first NATO target as it posed the greatest threat to Moscow and claimed it was “NATO’s gateway to the Baltics.”
But the Russian lawmaker also said that other former Soviet states could be next.
“The Commander-in-Chief determined that our ‘red lines’ run along the borders of NATO in 1997. This means that we need, at a minimum, to push NATO beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union,” he said in reference to an era before eastern European nations were invited to join the alliance.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all of which share borders with Russia or Belarus – which has been described as a Russian puppet state – joined the NATO alliance in 2004.
The only nations to join between 1997 and 2004 were Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and Russia has repeatedly called for the disarmament of these nations – a move NATO has flatly rejected.
“If countries do not pose a threat, then we will not change anything with them – there will still be peace and friendship,” the state deputy claimed.
Fedorov threatened that should Russia decide to reverse its recognition of independent Baltic States then NATO should boot them from the alliance or accept that a “Third World War will begin.”
NATO has not publicly commented on Russia’s potential move to repeal its recognition of Baltic States’ sovereignty.
But in an address Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg pledged to bolster security efforts within alliance and beyond.
“President Putin’s goals goes beyond Ukraine, and that’s the reason why we need to both provide support to Ukraine as we do, but also strengthen our deterrence and defense not least in the eastern part of the Alliance,” he told reporters.
Despite Russia’s unveiled threats to NATO allies, experts told Fox News there was no chance Moscow would be able to dictate NATO membership.
“First, NATO would not ‘boot’ any nation out of the Alliance. NATO is the result of a treaty, the Washington Treaty, so the only way for a NATO member to leave the Alliance is by their own choice,” Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO, Michael Ryan, said. “Second, the United States never recognized the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union.
“Just because a Russian Duma member suggests that Russia does not recognize them as independent nations, all the members of NATO do, so nothing changes,” he added.
Similarly, former intelligence officer for Russian doctrine and strategy with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Rebekah Koffler, told Fox News that this was another example of “Putin using his propaganda machine to scare the people of the Baltic States, to foment discord, and ratchet up the tensions with the West.”
“NATO will absolutely not consider kicking out the Baltics,” she added.