Putin warns NATO against further expansion to Russia's borders


April, 2008

Any further expansion by NATO toward Russia's borders will be interpreted as a direct threat to the country's security, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday. "The appearance on our borders of a powerful military bloc... will be considered by Russia as a direct threat to our country's security," Putin told a news conference after a NATO-Russia Council session on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Bucharest. NATO members decided on Thursday to postpone offering the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine the chance to join the alliance's Membership Action Plan (MAP). However, it was later announced that their bids would be reviewed in December. Their bids had received strong U.S. backing. The former Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, all which border Russia, are currently members of NATO.

Despite his warning, Putin said that the discussions had been "constructive," and that Moscow's position on the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty had been taken into account by NATO. Russia temporarily withdrew from the crucial arms control treaty in December amid concerns over NATO's ongoing eastward expansion, Washington's missile defense plans for Europe and NATO countries' reluctance to ratify the document. "My impression is that I was heard by our partners on the CFE problem. They are prepared either to ratify the existing treaty or discuss new arrangements. In any event, we have to do something together rather than taking unilateral steps ... such an approach has no future," he said. He also said he was happy that Russia's concerns over U.S. plans to deploy a missile base in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic had also been heard by NATO, and that Washington and Moscow would continue to discuss the issue.

"A positive moment in today's dialogue was that our national security concerns over the possible introduction of the missile shield proposed by our American partners were finally heard," he said. Putin added that he would continue to discuss the issue over the weekend with U.S. President George Bush in Russia's Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The meeting is set to be the last between the two leaders, who are due to step down in May and January 2009, respectively. Putin also said a new Cold War was impossible as there were no more ideological divides in Europe. "No, this is impossible. No one is interested in this," he said. "No global players, Europe, the United States and Russia, are interested in returning to the past. This is unnecessary," he said However, he insisted that Russia would make no concessions to the West at the expense of its own security, saying, "Why should we be flexible if it's a question of a threat to our security?"

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080404/103749979.html

NATO Allies Oppose Bush on Georgia and Ukraine

President Bush threw the NATO summit meeting here off-script on Wednesday by lobbying hard to extend membership to Ukraine and Georgia, but he failed to rally support for the move among key allies. Mr. Bush’s position — that Ukraine and Georgia should be welcomed into a Membership Action Plan, or MAP, that prepares nations for NATO membership — directly contradicted German and French government positions stated earlier this week. It also risked upsetting efforts to get Russia to soften its opposition to positioning a missile defense array in Eastern Europe. Mr. Bush failed to win over a consensus of NATO members in a debate at a dinner of NATO leaders, a senior German official said Wednesday night, with at least seven countries lined up against him.

A senior American official, briefing reporters, said that no final decisions had been made at the dinner, and that all parties agreed on the importance of keeping the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s door open to Ukraine and Georgia. Mr. Bush, entering his last NATO summit meeting as president, was described by the official as wanting to “lay down a marker” for his legacy and not wanting to “lose faith” with the Ukrainian and Georgian peoples and the other former Soviet republics. As Mr. Bush did more often early in his presidency, he expressed his views candidly despite warnings from allies that he was complicating efforts to find diplomatic solutions. Normally, summit meetings like this are prescripted, but Mr. Bush’s comments added some extra interest while annoying Germany and France, which had said they would block the invitation to Ukraine and Georgia.

At the dinner on Wednesday, the German and French position was supported by Italy, Hungary and the Benelux countries, a senior German official said. Mr. Bush was said to have accepted that his position was not going to prevail, and officials were asked to find some construction overnight that would encourage Ukraine and Georgia without asking them to enter a membership plan now. The dinner meeting ran two hours over schedule. An hour and a half after it was supposed to end, Laura Bush, the first lady, left on her own, as did other spouses. “The debate was mostly among Europeans,” the senior administration official said, acknowledging that several allies had balked at President Bush’s stance. “It was quite split, but it was split in a good way.”

NATO members did appear to make progress on other issues on their agenda. They are set on inviting Croatia and Albania to join the alliance, while working to overcome Greek objections to extending membership to Macedonia, European and American officials said. France also offered to send a battalion of troops to eastern Afghanistan, a move that could free American forces to move south, where NATO troops are struggling to suppress the Taliban-led insurgency. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Bush gave a rousing speech in which he stated his positions and declared that “the terrorist threat is real, it is deadly and defeating this enemy is the top priority of NATO,” which is not the defined goal of every member of this collective security alliance.

Referring to democratic revolutions in both Ukraine and Georgia, he said: “Welcoming them into the Membership Action Plan would send a signal to their citizens that if they continue on the path to democracy and reform they will be welcomed into the institutions of Europe. It would send a signal throughout the region” — read Russia — “that these two nations are, and will remain, sovereign and independent states.” Some German officials described the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, as upset and even angry on Wednesday. She and Mr. Bush have talked repeatedly about the issue in the past two months. Mrs. Merkel had thought that a compromise was in the works, the officials said, with Washington supporting a warm statement welcoming the interest of Ukraine and Georgia in NATO and encouraging them to work toward entering the membership plan program.

Germany and France have said they believe that since neither Ukraine nor Georgia is stable enough to enter the program now, a membership plan would be an unnecessary offense to Russia, which firmly opposes the move. In fact, senior diplomats here said, the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, has threatened to cancel his planned first-ever visit to the NATO meeting on Friday if the two former Soviet states enter the program for eventual membership. Mrs. Merkel visited Moscow on March 8 and met Mr. Putin and his successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev. She told them that Russia would not be allowed a veto over NATO membership. But a senior German diplomat, Wolfgang Ischinger, said that offering membership to a divided Ukraine could destabilize the new government there, and that not enough diplomacy had taken place beforehand with Russia. Mr. Ischinger, Germany’s ambassador to London, noted that after the NATO summit meeting Mr. Bush and the two Russians would meet in Sochi, a Russian resort on the Black Sea. He said, “It’s the absence of this discussion that makes me wonder if NATO has done enough of its homework at this point on this front.”

The newer members of NATO from the old Eastern Europe support the American position. Romanian, Estonian and Latvian leaders emphasized that the Membership Action Plan program involved difficult requirements for NATO membership, including internal political and military reforms and guarantees of civil liberties, and could take a decade to fulfill. “MAP is more of a big stick than a big carrot,” said the Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, at a conference here of the German Marshall Fund. “It forces nations to reform even when they don’t want to do it.” The Latvian president, Valdis Zatlers, warned that postponing entry to the Membership Action Plan program delayed crucial internal debates. “No action plan, no action,” he said. “If we delay, we postpone the inevitable. We have to give MAP.”

Ronald D. Asmus, who was a crucial figure in the Clinton administration’s enlargement of NATO and now runs the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels office, said, “Bush’s speech set up a dramatic battle that will be fought out over the next two days and whose outcome will be important in shaping his legacy, and America’s diplomatic standing in the alliance.” Derek Chollet, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, said Mr. Bush’s speech was “a combination of valedictory and marker-laying.” Mr. Bush will probably lose the argument on Ukraine and Georgia, Mr. Chollet said. “But he doesn’t care so much, and he believes he’s on the right side of the issue.” Getting NATO support for more troops in Afghanistan and for a limited European missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic is probably more important to Mr. Bush before the meeting with Mr. Putin, Dr. Asmus and Mr. Chollet said.

In his speech, Mr. Bush urged the alliance to “maintain its resolve and finish the fight” in Afghanistan and to deploy more troops there to combat the Taliban, Al Qaeda and other threats around the world. With the war in Afghanistan now in its seventh year, and 47,000 NATO troops already there, Mr. Bush stressed the continuing threat of terrorism to the entire West. In addition to France’s commitment announced Wednesday, Poland and Romania will also send more troops, and Washington is sending 3,200 more marines. But a full accounting of any additional forces will not be clear until Thursday; Canada had said it would consider pulling its troops out of the dangerous southern region of Afghanistan unless other countries provided 1,000 more soldiers.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/03/wo...html?ref=world

In other news:

The Anti-Atlantic Alliance


Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakhashvili lashed out at the recent address of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to the leaders of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And Tbilisi had solid grounds for agitation – implementation of Sukhumi proposals by Russia could be viewed as the first step en route of the economic integration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In essence, it will be Moscow’s response to the NATO summit in Bucharest. Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced sending the respective addresses to Abkhazia’s President Sergei Bagapsh and South Ossetia’s President Eduard Kokoity on April 3. People in the ministry, specified that it was the response to letters of the leaders of breakaway republics of Georgia, which manifested their apprehension about the political course of Tbilisi and its efforts to become the NATO member..

Putin said Russia was well-aware of Tbilisi’s course aimed at destabilizing the situation by using threats and force “with active appeal to the extra-regional states and organizations.” The implication is explicit – Putin evidently meant Georgia’s moves towards NATO and desire to replace Russia’s peacekeepers by international contingent. Moscow would back up Abkhazia and South Ossetia “not declaratively but in deed,” the president pledged. Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili called this move of Moscow unreasonable, unacceptable and dangerous. Georgia was stripped off the choice – we are heading for NATO, Saakashvili vowed. According to Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, they have already elaborated specific proposals that could follow the recent lifting of economic sanctions against Sukhumi. “These proposals cover a wide range of economic and legal issues that we could decide in the first instance.” The sources say the banking cooperation will be one of priorities.

Sukhumi suggests opening a correspondent account of the National Bank of Abkhazia with the Sochi branch of the the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) and authorizing CBR to provide soft loans to Abkhazia’s bank. Other proposals include settlement of all customs and tax issues, revival of traffic links between Russia and Abkhazia, including direct railway traffic and postal links, establishment of Russia’s diplomatic representative office in Abkhazia and so on. The RF Security Council will consider the proposals in the near term.

Source: http://www.kommersant.com/p-12308/Putin_prime_minister/

Russia could claim Crimea if Ukraine joins NATO - MP


A senior member of the Russian lower house of parliament said on Wednesday that Russia could claim the Crimea if Ukraine was admitted to NATO. NATO decided at its recent summit in Romania not to offer Ukraine and Georgia the chance to join a program that would have put them on the track to join the military alliance, but promised that the decision would be reviewed in December. The ex-Soviet republics had received strong U.S. backing for their bids. "If Ukraine's admission to NATO is accelerated, Russia could raise the question of which country the Crimea should be a part of," Alexei Ostrovsky, the head of the State Duma committee on CIS affairs, said in a radio interview. "The Russian Federation has legal grounds to revise agreements signed under Khrushchev."

Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who grew up in Ukraine, made the Crimean Peninsula - a territory of 26,100 sq km washed by the Black and Azov seas - part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. The peninsula had formerly been a part of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic. The Crimea, now an autonomous region within Ukraine, is a predominantly Russian-speaking territory. Since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, the Crimea has unsuccessfully sought independence from Ukraine. A 1994 referendum in the Crimea supported demands for a broader autonomy and closer links with Russia. The Russian Black Sea Fleet retains a Soviet-era base in Sevastopol in the Crimea. Disputes between Russia and Ukraine over the lease of the base are frequent.

However, Ostrovsky admitted that Ukraine was unlikely to join NATO any time soon, saying that the Ukrainian president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker were the only people in the country seeking membership of the Western military alliance. His comments referred to recent opinion polls that have indicated that about 70% of the population is opposed to joining NATO. NATO's ongoing expansion, as well as Washington's missile plans for Europe and an ongoing dispute over the recognition of Kosovo by the U.S and the majority of EU states have plunged Moscow's relations with the West to a post-Cold War low.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080409/104227945.html

RF Military to Respond to Ukraine’s, Georgia’s Admittance to NATO


Should Georgia and Ukraine join NATO, Russia will take “military and other actions” to secure its interests close to the state frontiers, RIA Novosti reported with reference to the RF Armed Forces Chief of General Staff Yuri Baluevsky. Russia will spare no efforts to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining the alliance, RF Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged not long ago in the interview with Echo Moskvy Broadcaster. Should those two states be admitted to NATO, Russia’s relations with the alliance would cloud materially, the minister emphasized. The comments of State Duma leaders are equally hawkish. Ukraine’s membership in NATO will end the cooperation of its defense and industrial complex with Russia, warned Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Committee.

This scenario will cause difficulties for defense and industrial complex of Russia, but it will be a catastrophe for Ukraine, as local manufacturers will hardly find a ready market in Europe, according to Kosachev. NATO’s recent summit in Bucharest refused to grant the MAP to Ukraine and Georgia, but the allies agreed that the former Soviet republics should become the NATO members in future. The United States and new allies, including the Baltic states, backed up their admittance, while Germany and France stepped in to oppose it.

Source: http://www.kommersant.com/p-12341/NATO_Ukraine/

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