U.S. Ally Proves Volatile Amid Dispute With Russia - September, 2008

By choosing direct confrontation with Moscow Georgia's very own idiot child, Saakashvili, unwittingly revealed the many inherent weaknesses and impotence of his closest partners in the West. And now, as predicted, signs of a deeply troubled marriage...

Arevordi

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U.S. Ally Proves Volatile Amid Dispute With Russia


September, 2008

Russia's claim that the U.S. orchestrated the conflict in Georgia has sharpened the dispute between the two superpowers. But despite close links between the U.S. and Georgia, their relationship in recent years has been marked more by frustration than coordination. According to interviews with current and former U.S. officials, as well as with Georgian officials in Tbilisi, the U.S. for years has found the relationship with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili difficult to manage. From Mr. Saakashvili's ascent to power in the 2003 "rose revolution" to his assault this month on Tskhinvali, capital of separatist South Ossetia, his risky moves have often caught Washington unprepared and left it exposed diplomatically, U.S. officials say.

American frustrations have been matched by those in Tbilisi. At a crucial moment earlier this year, a lame-duck administration in Washington was unable to deliver European support to kick-start Georgia's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Georgian president says he gave repeated warnings to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others that Russia would attack unless the West signaled strong support, including through NATO. These warnings, he says, went unheeded. Regardless of who was at fault, the end result was what the U.S. and Georgia both feared. Georgia's territory is being carved up, U.S. influence in the region has been dented, NATO expansion is harder to achieve, and Europe's dependence on Russian energy has been highlighted. Russia, which smashed the Georgian military and still occupies chunks of its territory, has re-emerged as the region's dominant power.

"I don't blame them," said Mr. Saakashvili, referring to the initial lack of response from Western leaders, during a recent interview at his half-constructed presidential residence in Tbilisi. They didn't respond to Georgia's pleas because they didn't believe him about Russia's intent to invade, Mr. Saakashvili says. "Everything happens a first time. You cannot predict it until you see it."

On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of arming Georgia in preparation for war and of deliberately starting the conflict to help the U.S. presidential campaign of one of the two candidates, presumably Republican Senator John McCain. The former Russian president said the resulting "hurrah-patriotism" would "unify the nation around certain political forces." Yet the gap in Georgian and Western expectations remains. This week, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two separatist regions of Georgia that are at the center of the conflict. Mr. Saakashvili wants the West to levy financial sanctions but the European Union is considering only diplomatic penalties ahead of an emergency meeting Monday. Moscow is a bigger trade partner for the EU than China, but trades less with the U.S. Mr. Saakashvili's U.S. ties trace back to the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, after which the young Georgian joined a human-rights nonprofit. He won a U.S. State Department fellowship and studied at Columbia University Law School in New York. He started making contacts across Washington with people, including Sen. McCain, who had a strong interest in the ex-Soviet Union and wanted to see NATO expand.

The Columbia diploma hangs on Mr. Saakashvili's office wall today. Next to it are biographies of Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Stalin and Ataturk -- a role model -- as well as books on war and one called "How to Run an Airport." While in office, Mr. Saakashvili has proved a radical on the economy, introducing market-oriented changes that won him high praise from institutions such as the World Bank. But he has proved just as radical in his determination to shake off centuries of Russian influence by joining NATO, and to retrieve Georgia's breakaway territories. When Mr. Saakashvili rose to power at the head of Georgia's so-called rose revolution following a disputed election, Moscow saw it as a U.S.-inspired coup. Some U.S. officials were also concerned. Washington's then-Ambassador Richard Miles tried to restrain Mr. Saakashvili, worried he might destabilize the country, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Saakashvili's storming of Georgia's parliament, which forced the resignation of autocratic President Eduard Shevardnadze and led to a new election, caught U.S. officials off guard. At the time, support for Mr. Shevardnadze was official U.S. policy, and key American diplomats thought they could still work with him. "It was like the U.S. was slamming the brakes all the time," says Scott Horton, who hired Mr. Saakashvili to his first law job in New York and kept in regular contact with him. "The U.S. was always trying to calm him down." Mr. Saakashvili didn't rely on the State Department to secure support in Washington, and worked hard to create alternative channels of communication. He hired Randy Scheunemann, now Sen. McCain's top foreign-policy adviser, as a lobbyist. The U.S. Agency for International Development paid for Daniel Kunin, a former National Democratic Institute official, to work as a full-time adviser to the Georgian president. Mr. Kunin has become an indispensable aide, staying on after his agency contract expired earlier this year.

Buoyed by the euphoria of the rose revolution, Mr. Saakashvili forced a showdown early in 2004 with Aslan Abashidze, the Moscow-backed ruler of Ajara, a breakaway province in southwestern Georgia. Visiting Tbilisi that March, Carlos Pascual, who headed the State Department's financial-assistance team for Georgia, says not only the U.S. but also Georgia's prime minister, Zurab Zhvania, was surprised by Mr. Saakashvili's rapid push. "You'd think you'd bring all hands on deck for this one," Mr. Pascual says. Mr. Abashidze eventually fled to Moscow. Though bloodless, many worried at the time that the confrontation would spark a war. Mr. Pascual and other U.S. officials say Mr. Saakashvili's Ajara move may have emboldened him to take further risks. In June 2004, he carried out a military operation in South Ossetia that seemed designed to trigger a similar internal collapse. The attempt failed, hardening attitudes inside South Ossetia, according to Western diplomats present at the time.

Washington's biggest shock came in November 2007, when Mr. Saakashvili cracked down on opposition protesters using tear gas and rubber bullets. He shut down opposition TV stations. This shattered Mr. Saakashvili's credibility as a champion of democracy. Matthew J. Bryza, a longstanding friend of Mr. Saakashvili and the State Department's point man for Georgia, was sent to deliver what he describes as a "tough" message: Mr. Saakashvili had to get the TV stations back on the air and restore democratic institutions, or lose U.S. support. Asked about these tensions, Mr. Saakashvili says: "What we saw was a foreign-led destabilization, and what [Washington] clearly saw was us overreacting to internal opposition. I think the truth was somewhere in the middle." At the time, the Bush administration was driving through independence for Kosovo, a breakaway Serbian province. That infuriated Russia, a close ally of Serbia. Later Moscow would cite the Kosovo precedent in pushing the claims of separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In early April, Georgian officials were desperate to start talks about joining NATO and hoped a meeting in Bucharest would send a clear signal of Western commitment to Georgia and deter any moves by Moscow. Mr. Bush strongly backed the Georgian bid, but in his final year lacked the clout to persuade some European NATO members, led by Germany, who worried about Mr. Saakashvili's reliability and Russian opposition to the move. In July, at a late-night session of a regional security conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the Georgian president expressed hope the U.S. would provide sophisticated weapons, including Stinger air-defense missiles. One American participant says he told Mr. Saakashvili: "This is never going to happen." Mr. Saakashvili and other Georgian officials say they understood the U.S. wouldn't go to war with Russia for Georgia. But the government remains deeply disappointed over how little the U.S. and European Union did before the crisis. "It looked like the West didn't want to get involved," says Mr. Saakashvili

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1220..._us_whats_news


Please read the following article to see just how delirious some Georgians can be:


Georgian Fantasies: Where are the Americans?


It's still not certain what motivated the Georgian government to launch its attack on South Ossetia in the face of ongoing Russian hostility and recent military maneuvers which all-but guaranteed a swift and devastating response. Georgia's Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia said simply: "We did not prepare for this kind of eventuality." His government was extraordinarily foolish, if not demented. Acknowledging that the Georgian military lacked sufficient anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to protect its ground forces, Kutelia said he "didn't think it likely that a member of the UN Security Council and the [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] would react like this." Moreover, the government in Tbilisi seemed to believe that being an informal American ally, with its military financed and trained by Washington – even if Georgia was not formally part of NATO – would deter any Russian attack. And that the U.S., with precisely zero interest in promoting Georgia's territorial ambitions and even less in fighting Russia, nevertheless would backstop Tbilisi's assault on the separatist enclave.

After giving Moscow the perfect excuse to intervene and suffering the horrid consequences of doing so, Georgians automatically turned to America. Save us, cried everyone from President Mikheil Saakashvili to combat soldiers to fleeing refugees. Where is America, they screamed? Shouting the loudest was Saakashvili, the author of Georgia's present distress. Nationalist, mercurial, authoritarian, he desperately wanted his nation to join NATO and he regularly criticized the Europeans for not doing more to aid his distant country, nestled between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea amidst the Caucasus Mountains. Having invested in Washington's war against Iraq (providing 2000 soldiers for the occupation) and in American politicians (paying the lobbying firm of John McCain's foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, nearly $1 million), Saakashvili expected a return on his country's investment.

Did he assume the pay-off would be automatic, or did he consult with his American friends? If we take the administration at its word that it discouraged Georgian adventurism, any encouragement would have had to come from others. On the Huffington Post David Bromwich observes: "if there was a single Western luminary [Saakashvili] would have wanted to consult, it was surely his old lobbyist and personal adviser Randy Scheunemann. The calculation by Scheunemann must have been that even if things went badly at first, for Georgia, the result of Russian suppression would be good for John McCain. Besides, McCain, as president, could eventually rescue Saakashvili by another path." Scheunemann isn't talking, but Saakashvili's expectations obviously were high. In March he declared: "I have to thank you, Mr. President, for your unwavered [sic] support for our freedom, for our democracy, for our territorial sovereignty and for protecting Georgia's borders and for Georgia's NATO aspirations." Although Saakashvili didn't say in what form he expected that protection, it would be surprising if he did not hope for more than anguished facial expressions and dramatic hand-wringing.

When the American legions didn't appear to battle the Russians, he launched a charm offensive through interviews with the Western press, seeking U.S. intervention. He affirmed that he holds "American values" and pleaded: "Please wake up everybody. And please make your position and speak with one united voice." He told CNN: "It's not about Georgia anymore. It's about America, its values. We are a freedom-loving nation that is right now under attack." He told a German newspaper that President Bush "understands that it's not really about Georgia but in a certain sense it's also an aggression against America." Saakashvili tried the same tactic with the Europeans, warning that "Unless Russia is stopped … tomorrow Russian tanks might enter any European capital." He quoted Sen. John McCain's "we are all Georgians" line to applauding crowds in Tbilisi. For a time the administration refused to rule out use of military force against Russia's forces. Deputy National Security Adviser James F. Jeffrey said "Right now our focus is on working with both sides, with the Europeans and with a whole variety of international institutions and organizations, to get the fighting to stop." But that option probably was never seriously considered. A top State Department official told the New York Times: "There is no possibility of drawing NATO or the international community into this." Forget the fraternal expressions of friendship. It was realpolitik time.

[...]

Source: http://www.antiwar.com/bandow/?articleid=13377


In other news:


U.S. warship met by anti-NATO protests in Ukraine's Sevastopol


The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, which arrived on Monday morning at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol where Russia has a naval base, has refused to go ashore amid anti-NATO protests, customs officers said. The Dallas, which recently delivered humanitarian aid to Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi, docked at the Crimean port on the invitation of Kiev. The ship was met with thousands of protesters chanting "Yankees go home!" and waving banners with the slogan "NATO Stop!" The area around the ship has been cordoned off by police, with an anti-NATO picket nearby. Ukrainian customs officers who went on board the ship and met with the commander said the U.S. servicemen are refusing to leave the vessel on foot, but that buses could be provided so they can be given a tour of the city. Tensions between Russia and the West have been exacerbated by the build-up in the Black Sea of U.S. and NATO naval vessels delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia. In an apparent response, Russia sent a group of warships last week, including the Moskva missile cruiser, to Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia. Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses the Sevastopol base under agreements signed in 1997. Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko announced earlier this year that Ukraine would not extend the lease beyond 2017. Yushchenko signed a decree earlier this month requiring prior notice of all movements by Russian naval vessels and aircraft from the Sevastopol base in the Crimea. The decree is not has not yet come into force, but Russia views it as a provocation and is likely to resist any Ukrainian attempts to restrict the deployment of its navy.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20080901/116450879.html


U.S. warship leaves Sevastopol after protests


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas left Sevastopol Tuesday morning after anti-NATO protests in Ukraine's Crimean port. The Dallas, which recently delivered humanitarian aid to Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi, docked on Monday at the Crimean port, where Russia has a naval base, at the invitation of Kiev. The ship's arrival was met by thousands of anti-NATO protesters chanting "Yankees go home!" and waving banners with the slogan "NATO Stop!" Police cordoned off the area around the ship. Ukrainian customs officers who boarded the ship and met the commander said they had been prepared to lay on buses for the U.S. crew to give them a tour of the city, but apart from a few officers, no one left the vessel. Tensions between Russia and the West have been exacerbated by the build up in the Black Sea of U.S. and NATO naval vessels delivering humanitarian aid to Georgia. In an apparent response, Russia sent a group of warships last week, including the Moskva missile cruiser, to Sukhumi, the capital of Abkhazia. A Russian warship, the Smetlivy patroller, has meanwhile returned to Sevastopol after being involved in peacekeeping operations off the Abkhazian shore, a Russian Black Sea Fleet command source said. "Smetlivy returned to its base this morning. Everyone on board is safe and sound. A group of ships has remained near the Abkhazian shore to ensure the republic's maritime security," the source said. Most of Russia's naval group have returned to the Black Sea bases of Novorossiisk and Sevastopol. After a Russian ship patrolling Abkhazian waters sank a Georgian missile boat during armed conflict last month, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Russian warships involved in the operation near Georgia could be prohibited from returning to Sevastopol. Russia's Black Sea Fleet uses the Sevastopol base under agreements signed in 1997. Ukrainian pro-NATO President Victor Yushchenko announced earlier this year that Ukraine would not extend the lease beyond 2017. Yushchenko signed a decree last month requiring prior notice of all movements by Russian naval vessels and aircraft from the Sevastopol base in the Crimea. Russia views it as a provocation and is likely to resist any Ukrainian attempts to restrict the deployment of its navy.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20080902/116477984.html


Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov: "If we lose Sevastopol, we'll lose the Caucasus"


Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov is convinced that a new Black Sea Fleet agreement must signed with Ukraine. "I submitted a proposal to finish the new agreement by September. Russia needs to invite Ukraine to the table to consider this agreement," RIA Novosti quoted Luzhkov as stating. The Moscow mayor referred to Ukraine's recent actions as a "blatant disregard" for the present agreement due to the country's NATO aspirations. He added that Russia is "losing Sevastopol." "If we lose Sevastopol," said Luzhkov. "We'll lose the Caucasus." In May 2008, at a celebration marking the Black Sea Fleet's 225th anniversary, Luzhkov reiterated earlier calls to reintegrate Sevastopol and the Crimean Peninsula into Russia. "Sevastopol was never given to Ukraine," said Luzhkov. "I have carefully studied all the main documents." After the speech, Ukraine's security service declared Luzhkov persona non grata. Recently, Ukraine's government stated a new agreement must be signed with Moscow that will regulate such issues as the Black Sea Fleet's participation in armed conflicts and ensure Ukraine's soverign right to monitor the fleet while on Ukrainian territory. Several weeks ago, Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko signed an order stating the Black Sea Fleet's commanding officer must inform their Joint Chief of Staff if Russian ships plan to leave Ukrainian territory. Russia's Interior Ministry referred to the order as "another serious anti-Russian maneuver" breaking the agreement on cordial relations between Kiev and Moscow.

Source: http://www.kp.ru/daily/24155/370727/


Putin vows 'an answer' to NATO ships near Georgia


Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia will respond calmly to an increase in NATO ships in the Black Sea in the aftermath of the short war with Georgia, but promised that "there will be an answer." Russia has repeatedly complained that NATO has too many ships in the Black Sea. Foreign Ministry official Andrei Nesterenko said Tuesday that currently there are two U.S., one Polish, one Spanish and one German ship there. Russian officials say the United States could have delivered weapons to Georgia under the guise of humanitarian aid. "We don't understand what American ships are doing on the Georgian shores, but this is a question of taste, it's a decision by our American colleagues," he reportedly said. "The second question is why the humanitarian aid is being delivered on naval vessels armed with the newest rocket systems."

He said Russia's reaction to NATO ships "will be calm, without any sort of hysteria. But of course, there will be an answer," Interfax quoted Putin as saying during a visit to Uzbekistan. Asked by exactly what measures Russia would take, Putin was quoted as answering "You'll see." Separately, Russian officials criticized European threats to postpone talks on a partnership deal over the war in Georgia, but the Russian envoy to the EU said he was not surprised that the bloc declined to impose sanctions on Russia. "We are too interdependent," Vladimir Chizhov told reporters in Moscow. "Russia and the European Union are bound by destiny to be close partners." EU officials said Monday that unless Russian troops pull back from positions in Georgia, talks on the wide-ranging political and economic agreement would be delayed.

Britain and Eastern European nations held out for a tougher line, but Europe's dependence on Russian oil and natural gas deterred stronger sanctions. Putin's visit to Uzbekistan only highlighted that dependence: The Russian leader announces a new natural gas pipeline to cross Uzbekistan, strengthening Russian control over Central Asian gas exports to Europe and undermining Western-backed efforts for a rival trans-Caspian route. Criticizing the EU decision, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Russia had fulfilled "all of its commitments." He claimed efforts were under way to rebuild Georgia's armed forces, and said Georgian military forces were behind protests against Russian troops stationed in the country. "There are active attempts to restore the activity of Georgian troops," he said. "Yesterday, there were rallies and provocations near the town of Kapoleti targeting Russian troops. We believe they were organized by Georgian special services."

Georgian officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the claim. "Naturally, we cannot agree with a number of biased statements regarding Russia in the final declaration of the summit, including the assertion that our reaction to the Georgian aggression was disproportionate," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "The main thing, however, is that they are in the minority and the majority of EU countries have manifested a responsible approach and confirmed their intention to continue the partnership with Russia," the ministry said. On Aug. 7, Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia, hoping to retake the province, which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s. Russian forces repelled the offensive and pushed into Georgia. Both sides signed a cease-fire deal in mid-August, but Russia has ignored its requirement for all forces to return to prewar positions. Moscow insists the cease-fire accord lets it run checkpoints in security zones of up to 4 miles into Georgian territory.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080902/...russia_georgia

Russia Claims Its Sphere of Influence in the World


Medvedev: Unipolarity is unacceptable: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXBbGadYh0I

President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia on Sunday laid out what he said would become his government’s guiding principles of foreign policy after its landmark conflict with Georgia — notably including a claim to a “privileged” sphere of influence in the world. Speaking to Russian television in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a day before a summit meeting in Brussels where European leaders were to reassess their relations with Russia, Mr. Medvedev said his government would adhere to five principles. Russia, he said, would observe international law. It would reject what he called United States dominance of world affairs in a “unipolar” world. It would seek friendly relations with other nations. It would defend Russian citizens and business interests abroad. And it would claim a sphere of influence in the world. In part, Mr. Medvedev reiterated long-held Russian positions, like his country’s rejection of American aspirations to an exceptional role in world affairs after the end of the cold war. The Russian authorities have also said previously that their foreign policy would include a defense of commercial interests, sometimes citing American practice as justification.

In his unabashed claim to a renewed Russian sphere of influence, Mr. Medvedev said: “Russia, like other countries in the world, has regions where it has privileged interests. These are regions where countries with which we have friendly relations are located.” Asked whether this sphere of influence would be the border states around Russia, he answered, “It is the border region, but not only.”

Last week, Mr. Medvedev used vehement language in announcing Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Though he alluded in passing to respecting Georgia’s territorial integrity, he defended Russia’s intervention as necessary to prevent a genocide. Mr. Medvedev, inaugurated in May, was an aide to Vladimir V. Putin, the former president and now prime minister. Mr. Putin appeared on Russian television on Sunday from the nation’s far east, where he was inspecting progress on a trans-Siberian oil pipeline to China and the Pacific Ocean, a clear warning to Europe that Russia could find alternative customers for its energy exports. He was later shown in a forest, dressed in camouflage and hunting a Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer gun. Leaders of the 27 members of the European Union, who will meet in an emergency session on Monday, were considered highly unlikely to impose sanctions or go beyond diplomatic measures in expressing disapproval of Russia’s conflict with Georgia. The members in Eastern Europe have tended to be more wary and more confrontational toward Russia, while Western European countries have tended to be more concerned with not jeopardizing energy imports from Russia.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/01/wo...russia.html?hp

Kremlin announces that South Ossetia will join 'one united Russian state'

The Kremlin moved swiftly to tighten its grip on Georgia’s breakaway regions yesterday as South Ossetia announced that it would soon become part of Russia, which will open military bases in the province under an agreement to be signed on Tuesday. Tarzan Kokoity, the province’s Deputy Speaker of parliament, announced that South Ossetia would be absorbed into Russia soon so that its people could live in “one united Russian state” with their ethnic kin in North Ossetia. The declaration came only three days after Russia defied international criticism and recognised South Ossetia and Georgia’s other separatist region of Abkhazia as independent states. Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia’s leader, agreed that it would form part of Russia within “several years” during talks with Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian President, in Moscow.

The disclosure will expose Russia to accusations that it is annexing land regarded internationally as part of Georgia. Until now, the Kremlin has insisted that its troops intervened solely to protect South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgian “aggression”. Interfax news quoted an unidentified Russian official as saying that Moscow also planned to establish two bases in Abkhazia. Sergei Shamba, Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister, said that an agreement on military co-operation would be signed within a month. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that agreements on “peace, co-operation and mutual assistance with Abkhazia and South Ossetia” were being prepared on the orders of President Medvedev. Abkhazia said that it would ask Russia to represent its interests abroad. Georgia announced that it was recalling all diplomatic staff from its embassy in Moscow in protest at the continued Russian occupation of its land in defiance of a ceasefire agreement brokered by President Sarkozy of France. The parliament in Tbilisi declared Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be under Russian occupation.

Gigi Tsereteli, the Vice-Speaker, dismissed the threat of South Ossetia becoming part of Russia, saying: “The world has already become different and Russia will not long be able to occupy sovereign Georgian territory. “The regimes of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should think about the fact that if they become part of Russia, they will be assimilated, and in this way they will disappear.” Lado Gurgenidze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, scrapped agreements that had permitted Russian peacekeepers to operate in the two regions after wars in the early 1990s. He called for their replacement by international troops. Vyacheslav Kovalenko, Moscow’s Ambassador to Georgia, described Tbilisi’s decision to sever relations as “a step towards further escalation of tensions with Russia and the desire to drive the situation into an even worse deadlock”.

Russia attacked the G7 after the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan condemned its “excessive use of military force in Georgia”. In a joint statement, they had called on Russia to “implement in full” the French ceasefire agreement. The Foreign Ministry said that the G7 was “justifying Georgian acts of aggression” and insisted that Moscow had met its obligations under the six-point agreement. Having been rebuffed on Thursday by China and four Central Asian states, Russia will seek support next week from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) for its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The CSTO comprises Russia and the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The signing of the military agreement with South Ossetia will take place the day after an emergency summit of European Union leaders to discuss the crisis. The French presidency of the EU said that sanctions against Russia were not being considered, contradicting an earlier statement by Bernard Kouchner, the Foreign Minister. Russia told the EU that any sanctions would be damaging to both sides. Andrei Nesterenko, a Foreign Ministry official, said: “We hope that common sense will prevail over emotions and that EU leaders will find the strength to reject a one-sided assessment of the conflict . . . Neither party needs the confrontation towards which some countries are being energetically pushed by the EU.”

Russia also lashed out at Nato, saying that it had “no moral right” to pass judgment on the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Foreign Ministry said: “Further sliding to confrontation with Russia and attempts to put pressure on us are unacceptable, as they can entail irreversible consequences in the military-political climate and in stability on the continent.” The US confirmed that the flagship of its Sixth Fleet, the USS Mount Whitney, would deliver aid to Georgia next week. Two other warships are moored off Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi, and Russia has ordered its fleet to take “precautionary measures”. Mr Medvedev has accused the US of shipping weapons to Georgia along with aid, a claim dismissed as “ridiculous” by the White House.

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle4635843.ece

Sarkisian To Meet Russia’s Medvedev

President Serzh Sarkisian will meet his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev early next week for talks that will apparently focus on Russia’s bitter conflict with Georgia. Sarkisian’s office said on Friday the meeting will take place in the Russian Black Sea port of Sochi next Tuesday. It said the two presidents will discuss “further development of the Russian-Armenian strategic partnership” and “regional and international issues.” Armenia’s unfolding presidency of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Russian-led military alliance of six ex-Soviet states, will also be on the agenda, it added. No further details were reported. Medvedev and Sarkisian already discussed the crisis over Georgia in a phone conversation on August 13, one week after the outbreak of fighting in South Ossetia that escalated into an all-out Russian-Georgian war. The Armenian presidential press service said afterwards that they “agreed to hold, if need be, additional consultations on further developments” in the conflict zone. Armenia has avoided openly taking sides in the dispute, mindful of Georgia’s vital significance for its transport communication with the outside world and its dependence on Russia for defense and energy resources. Still, Sarkisian did signal last week his disapproval of Tbilisi’s disastrous attempt to restore Georgian control over South Ossetia by force. And while declining to support Russia’s decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, official Yerevan has made clear it that it believes the status of the two breakaway territories should be determined by their pro-Russian populations.

Source: http://www.armenialiberty.org/armeni...34BCAF18E7.ASP

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