This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blasted Russia for continuing to “threaten Mediterranean stability” and sowing “chaos, conflict, and division” in countries around the region.
In a statement on December 15, Pompeo responded to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who he said has “accused the United States of playing political games” in the region.
Lavrov “again gets the facts wrong and attempts to rewrite history,” Pompeo said, denouncing Moscow’s actions in Libya, Syria, and other Mediterranean countries.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014, its role in wars in eastern Ukraine and Libya, and its election meddling in the United States and Europe.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, is expected to take a tougher stance toward the Kremlin on its human rights record and foreign policies compared with outgoing President Donald Trump.
In its statement, titled Russian Influence In The Mediterranean, Pompeo said the United States is working with its allies and partners in the Eastern Mediterranean to “promote greater stability, security, and prosperity.”
On the other hand, Russia “continues to threaten Mediterranean stability using a variety of techniques to spread disinformation, undermine national sovereignty, and sow chaos, conflict, and division within countries throughout the region.”
In Libya, Pompeo said Washington “supports the formation of an inclusive government that can secure the country and meet the economic and humanitarian needs of the Libyan people.”
Meanwhile, Moscow has undermined the UN’s efforts to bring peace to the North African country, violated a UN arms embargo, blocked UN sanctions on human rights violators, and fueled the conflict via the Vagner Group, a Russian military contractor force which also active in Syria and Africa, according to the outgoing state secretary.
In Syria, Russia supports the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, “whose war against its own people has added to regional instability, led to a protracted humanitarian crisis, and displaced half the population,” Pompeo said.
He also accused Russia of working to undermine diplomatic efforts between Greece and North Macedonia, and allowing wealthy, Kremlin-linked Russians to launder money through Cyprus and Malta, among other activities.
“All of these actions clearly demonstrate that if anyone is playing political games and trying to stall progress in regional conflicts, it is Russia, which only acts to advance its own interests to the detriment of the entire region,” Pompeo said.