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I cannot imagine Ukraine as NATO member - Sergei Ivanov

MOSCOW. Dec 23 (Interfax) - The August events in the Caucasus proved that Russia needs naval bases in the Krasnodar territory in addition to the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol, former Russian Defense Minister and Deputy Russian Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

"The year 2017 is far-off. I do not doubt that the Russian leadership will do everything it can to extend the lease (of the Black Sea base in Sevastopol) and will make various proposals. But it is necessary to realize that any fleet based in only one place is vulnerable," Ivanov said in an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Tuesday.

"That's why a federal program for building Black Sea bases in the area of Novorossiisk and Tuapse, in Russia, was adopted five years ago. And the events of August have shown clearly that we need some bases in the Krasnodar region," he said.

"In any case, we shall implement this program and transfer part of the fleet, the marines, the marine aviation, and the large ground infrastructure to other places. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. And as for the agreement on the Black Sea, it was taken in the package with other papers. And if we take out one agreement, we shall have to review other agreements too," he said.

Commenting on the issue of refusal to include Kyiv and Tbilisi in the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), he admitted that a possible Ukrainian membership in NATO seemed unbelievable for him.

"I'd like to know when Ukraine will hold a referendum on NATO membership. This referendum will be explicit. I cannot imagine Ukraine as a NATO member. This entails a visa regime," Ivanov said.

As for Georgia, Moscow will not be able to prevent it from joining NATO, although Russia has put under strong doubt the advisability of these plans for Brussels.

"No matter what our western partners say, NATO remains a military and political bloc. Given this fact, will Georgia and Ukraine strengthen NATO if they join it? Has the acceptance of the Baltic countries raised their authority in the fight against international terrorism? Does anybody threaten the Baltic countries?" Ivanov said. "I do not feel these threats," he said.

"We have warned: arming Georgia by young East European democracies will entail no good, the Tbilisi regime will undertake an adventure sooner or later. And one should not encourage Tbilisi by supplying obsolete Soviet period weaponry because the Washington party committee ordered: "Young Europeans! Dispose of your Soviet and Russian-made weapons, now we shall supply arms to you. The Europeans realized that Georgia launched an adventure, that's why the Europeans refused to include Georgia in the plan (MAP)," Ivanov said.

"I do not know what will happen in the future. If Georgia fails to change its policy and NATO decides that it deserves to be included in the organization, we cannot prevent it. Yet there is another option for Georgia to be included in NATO without South Ossetia and Abkhazia," he said.