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We are not jealous of Georgia, but.... says Medvedev

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Monday, July 27
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has stated that NATO does not need a country like Georgia and neither Georgia nor Ukraine is ready to join the alliance.

“Does NATO need a state that has that many problems?” Medvedev said in his interview with the NTV Russian TV station on July 26. He said Russia is not jealous of its neighbours, including Ukraine and Georgia, and their relationships with the United States, but it is against forcibly “dragging” them into military and political alliances.

“Here my position is simple, it remains the same, and on this issue we disagree with the views of the United States ... We do not consider it right to drag any state into a political-military alliance against the will of its people,” Medvedev said. “We look at how other states build their relations with our partners in the international community, including such an important country as the United States, without any jealousy,” the Russian President said. However Moscow fears that NATO expansion, in particular through the Ukraine and Georgia, will lead to a serious destabilisation of the situation on the European continent.

Moscow has struggled to revive its clout in former Soviet states, and has often bristled at Washington for its close relations with the pro-Western leaders of Ukraine and Georgia. In Sunday's broadcast, Medvedev said that Ukraine, where the idea of joining the alliance remains unpopular, should hold a referendum to "provide a legitimate ground" for NATO membership.

Georgia's drive to join NATO added to the tensions which preceded Russia's war with Georgia last summer. Since the war Russia has steadily warned the U.S. not to rearm Georgia, and has ignored Western anger over its recognition of the two Moscow-backed separatist regions of Georgia as independent nations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview with NBC on July 26, stated that “any nation in Eastern Europe that used to be part of the Soviet Union has a right now, as a free, sovereign, and independent nation, to choose whatever alliance they wish to join, so if Ukraine and Georgia someday are eligible for and desire to join NATO, that should be up to them.”

She said that each of these countries faces different challenges at present, although the US rejects the notion that any country has a ‘sphere of influence’ in the 21st century. “We have our challenges. Russia has its challenges. And there are certain issues that Russia has to deal with on its own. And we want to make clear that, as we reset our relationship, we are very clearly not saying that Russia can have a 21st century sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. That is an attitude and a policy we reject,” the Secretary of State said.

Yesterday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia responded to Medvedev’s comments about people being dragged into alliances against their will, stating that NATO member states had confirmed many times that the door of the NATO was open for Ukraine and Georgia and that they would become its members when they were ready for this, despite the resistance of any third party. “At the Bucharest summit and in separate statements from the NATO authorities it has been confirmed that Georgia and Ukraine are free to make the decision to join the alliance, but before this happens, they have to follow specific procedures and meet specific requirements. The resistance of any third country to this process will be useless,” Davit Jalaghania, the Deputy Foreign Minister, said on July 27 at a briefing.

Political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili says that Russia is not sincere when it says that it does not care if Georgia or Ukraine joins NATO.

“Russia pretends that it does not care whether NATO accepts Georgia and Ukraine. It seems that Russia is losing its levers bit by bit. Earlier Russia stated that it would never allow Georgia to join NATO, now it says it doesn’t care but NATO itself will not accept Georgia in the alliance,” Tsiskarishvili said.

In his interview Medvedev also made disapproving comments about President Saakashvili and stated that his Government has caused a serious rupture in the historically close ties between the Russian and Georgian nations. “Regimes like that of Saakashvili, come and go, but feelings between nations remain,” he said. “I am sure that at some time our relations will be restored on a new basis, taking into account the realities which have been created and taking into account those tragic pages which these relations have passed through recently,” Medvedev told NTV.