Chuck Hagel
© Jason Reed-Pool/Getty ImagesUS Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Manas Air Force Base in Kyrgyzstan, 2013
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday that any NATO military presence in Central Asia would undermine the security of the Russian-led CSTO alliance, in the region, and would not be tolerated by Moscow.

The minister made his comment at an Afghanistan-themed summit in Tunxi, China.

"We believe it's unacceptable to have any US and NATO military infrastructure, or their Afghan helpers, on the territory of neighboring states, especially in Central Asia," Lavrov said, adding that "such designs go against the security interests of our countries."

He added that the existence of Western military sites would contradict the interests of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has six members, all former Soviet states.

The Russian official also called for "extreme caution" regarding the settlement of Afghan refugees in states bordering their homeland. He argued countries should consider the "high risks" for their own security and the region as a whole.

Taliban militants seized power in Kabul last year during the final stage of the withdrawal of Western forces. The US and its allies invaded the country in 2001, as part of Washington's global 'war of terror', launched in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The last US troops left Afghanistan in August 2021.

The US evacuated its citizens and some allied Afghans from Kabul. However, around 78,000 Afghans who worked for the US government or applied for American visas, were left behind, according to the Association of Wartime Allies lobby group.

Lavrov said that nearly two decades of Western occupation have shown "the complete failure of an experiment to impose foreign methods and values onto the Afghan people."

"The 'collective West' bears direct responsibility for the current humanitarian conditions, for the sad state of the Afghan economy. Hence, it must accept the main financial burden of overcoming the crisis and stabilizing the situation."

Lavrov met with Afghanistan's acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, on Thursday, urgeing the world to work more closely with the Taliban, encouraging steps that could lead to the militant group's government being recognized by the UN.