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Russia threatens NATO

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, January 29
Russian Foreign Minster Sergey Lavrov has accused NATO of encouraging Georgia to “start the war in South Ossetia” in August 2008.

Speaking in Moscow at a Russian Federal Council session, Lavrov stated that “It’s not a secret that one of the factors provoking Mikheil Saakashvili’s actions [in South Ossetia] was the decision of the NATO Bucharest summit that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of the alliance.” The Russian Foreign Minister also accused former US President George W. Bush of attempts to “drag Georgia and Ukraine” into NATO. “I consider that the US desire is not shared by the majority of NATO members,” said Lavrov on January 28.

Lavrov also expressed doubts about the aims of NATO, saying that he wonders “how one can say that NATO is not an aggressive structure when it tries to drag the regime which caused a real tragedy into it?”

On January 26 Russia and NATO restarted a dialogue which had been paused since the August war in Georgia. Russian representative at NATO Dmitry Rogozin, speaking to journalists on January 27, repeated Lavrov’s statements and announced that Moscow expects explanations from the bloc. “After the things that happened in the Caucasus, after the extreme support that the alliance gave to Georgian leader Saakashvili, we can’t talk about cooperation [with NATO] in the military sphere. Before we do that we want to hear, not excuses, but at least explanations for its political line on Georgia,” said Rogozin. He also noted that further support for Georgia from NATO may lead to the resumption of military actions in Georgia.

Another Russian spokesperson, its representative at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Constantine Kosachev, also threatened the possible resumption of military actions in South Ossetia. Kosachev declared that the conflict will start again if Russia is forced to obey the PACE October resolution, which, among other things, demands that Russia withdraws its recognition of the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “Georgia has no other way to restore its so-called territorial integrity but military provocation,” said Kosachev, speaking at the third PACE session in Strasbourg.

PACE is most likely to adopt a new resolution on the Russian-Georgian war on January 28. Unlike its October resolution on the consequences of the August war, the new draft resolution states that the Assembly “regrets the unanimous ratification” by both Houses of the Russian Parliament of the cooperation treaties with the two breakaway regions. The draft resolution says that this move was a “violation” of the August 12 ceasefire accord, as well as of the principle of “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as the inviolability of its borders,” a principle fully upheld by the Assembly.

MP Akaki Minashvili, Chairman of the Georgian Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, told the RFE/RL Georgian service on January 26 that the Georgian side had prepared over 20 amendments to the draft resolution. “I expect heated debates and I am sure Russia’s actions will be assessed very strictly, because not only has Russia failed to fulfill the October resolution provisions, but has gone further and violated them, including through establishing diplomatic ties with the breakaway regions,” he said on January 26. “My initial observation is that the members of PACE understand this very well, so I expect tough assessments of Russia’s actions.”

The draft resolution also reads that the Assembly “regrets that Russia has not yet complied with the majority of the demands” set out by the October resolution; it also notes that Georgia “has complied with many, but not all, of its demands.” It again uses the term “ethnic cleansing” to describe the processes taking place in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. PACE “condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing and other human rights violations in South Ossetia, as well as the failure of Russia and the de facto authorities to bring these practices to a halt and their perpetrators to justice,” states the draft resolution. The head of the Georgian Delegation, Petre Tsiskarishvili, has urged the Council of Europe to remain devoted to its principles and the previous resolutions and make Russia comply with all its commitments.

According to Georgian political analyst Zurab Davitashvili, Russia’s aggressive statements towards NATO and the US Government mean that Moscow is proposing “new rules of the game” to the new US administration. Davitashvili notes that “it’s not likely that the new American administration will review the strategic decisions made by the previous Government and consider Moscow’s position on them. The USA will continue the strategic line of the previous foreign policy,” stated the analyst.