Nato 'to Resume Ties With Russia'
Nato has agreed to a "conditional and graduated re-engagement" with Russia, the alliance's secretary general says. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said talks with Moscow, which were frozen over its war with Georgia in August, would resume. The Nato-Russian Council is not being restored, but the Nato chief said lower level talks would take place. Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels also reiterated their support for eventual Nato membership for Georgia and Ukraine. But Nato is deeply divided on the subject, and did not offer the countries their desired membership action plan (MAP). Moscow strongly opposes their ambitions to join the alliance, and some countries, like Germany, France and Italy, fear offering them MAPs would provoke Russia, correspondents say. Instead, ministers encouraged Tbilisi and Kiev to pursue reforms needed to join the alliance, without any timetable for entry. Mr de Hoop Scheffer said that all previous decisions made by Nato heads of state regarding Georgia and Ukraine still stood. "That includes very much that they will one day be members, if they so wish of course, and important to add, when they meet Nato standards," he said. The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Brussels says it is clear that neither country will become a Nato member any time soon, and that assistance is all Nato can offer for now.
Nato ministers have not revived the Nato-Russian Council, but Mr De Hoop Scheffer said they had agreed to a resumption of lower-level dialogue with Moscow. "The Nato-Russia Council will meet on an informal basis to re-engage and to have discussions on the issues on which we will agree and, I would also like to add, on the issues on which we disagree," he said. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted that "this is not business as usual" and that she still considered Russia's action in Georgia in the summer to be "unacceptable". Before the meeting, Ms Rice had said she broadly backed efforts to improve Nato's contacts with Russia but that some areas remained "problematic". "We should be very attentive to what the Russians are doing and are they living up to their obligations," she said. "There are certain types of activities, like military-to-military contacts, that seem to me to be problematic, when the Russian ministry is sitting in Georgian territory, in the separatist regions." Thousands of Russian troops are still stationed in Georgia's rebel regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. On Tuesday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili warned the West of "grave risks of returning to business as usual" with Russia without holding it to account for its actions in Georgia. "If the international response is not firm, Moscow will make other moves to redraw the region's map by intimidation or force," Mr Saakashvili wrote in an article in the Wall Street Journal. In a separate development, the EU launched its mission to investigate the causes of the Georgian-Russian conflict, a spokesman for the EU's French presidency was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
Nato was deeply divided on how to proceed, following the conflict over South Ossetia in the summer, correspondents say. While the US and newer Nato members, from the former Warsaw Pact, are keen to draw Georgia and Ukraine closer, others like Germany and France are wary of antagonising Russia, a key energy supplier. The war also raised doubts among many members over whether Georgia, with its disputed territories, was ready to join the bloc or remained too volatile. Ukraine has been beset by political turbulence, with the country split on Nato membership. But Nato does not want Russia to think it has a veto over who joins the alliance, our correspondent says. Ms Rice had previously said she believed in Nato's "open door policy" but that there should be "no short cuts to membership of Nato", and that both Ukraine and Georgia must first meet the organisation's admission standards. "No one wants to see a circumstance in which Ukraine and Georgia are shut out," she said. Correspondents says it will be a struggle for the alliance to prevent divisions on the issue hardening into permanent fault lines.
In related news:
Georgia, Ukraine 'Not Ready For NATO'
There is agreement between the Netherlands and Germany that Georgia and Ukraine must restore order in their own countries before they are considered for membership of NATO, reports the Volkskrant. According to foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen and Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier, candidate members must first be democratic, have no internal conflicts and have their own defence in order, says the paper. For Georgia and Ukraine this means they must first introduce reforms, such as bringing in press freedom and an independent judiciary, Verhagen told the paper. The ministers were speaking in The Hague before travelling to Brussels for a NATO meeting where the candidacy of the two countries will be discussed. America has already said Georgia and Ukraine should become NATO members as soon as possible.
NATO Makes Everybody Happy
The summit of NATO foreign ministers ended yesterday in Brussels. For Russia, the main result of the meeting was that Ukraine and Georgia did not receive membership action plans and the decision was made to renew relations with Russia. NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called Russia a key player in the international arena and said the Russia-NATO Council made it possible to work together on common problems, such as Afghanistan. Scheffer added that the renewal of contacts does not mean that NATO approves of Russia’s actions in the August war in the Caucasus or that it discounts Russia’s threats to point missiles at NATO member countries. Scheffer also repeated assurances made in Bucharest to the Ukrainian delegation that that country would become a member of the alliance. “I think the level of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO will be higher than before,” Ukrainian Minister Petr Krupko told Kommersant. Party of the Regions leader Viktor Yanukovich thanked NATO for its “respect for the choice of the Ukrainian People.” Olga Gerasimyuk, a member of the Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense faction, stated that “fulfilling the yearlong action plan is the same as fulfilling the membership action plan, and we are doing it.” Georgian Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili told a session of the government in Tbilisi yesterday that “the irreversible process of Georgian NATO membership” has started, calling the yearlong action plan a mechanism for joining the organization. Lasha Zhvania, chairman of the Georgian parliament’s international affairs committee, explained that “A yearlong action plan will be provided every year and its results reviewed at the annual NATO summit. We see the possibility that, after one of those reviews, the alliance will make the decision to invite Georgia into NATO without a membership action plan.”
Obama’s Teammate With Shady Russian Past
Members of Obama’s economic task force are already rolling up their sleeves to fight the recession. Among those due to guide America through the financial crisis is Larry Summers, who will be the president's senior financial advisor, and who, as RT found out, comes with quite a controversial past. There may be some big international stars on Obama’s new dream team, but Larry Summers is no plain professional. Not only has he run the World Bank but he served in the Clinton administration and was president of Harvard. But despite the impressive CV he’s also been a controversial figure both at home and abroad throughout his career.
“I have to say that for someone protecting the interests of the US, he was very efficient. He tried to force a model on us, which turned out to be suicidal for the Russian economy,” says economic expert Sergey Glazyev.
Summers will head the National Economic Council as Obama’s senior financial advisor. He’s known for being a keen advocate of deregulation, a policy he exported to Russia with disastrous results in the late nineties. Some who worked with him conceded he knew what he was doing, but could be blinded by his own convictions.
“There was a little bit of this attitude of ‘we know everything, and you guys don’t know anything’,” recalls Viktor Geraschenko, former Head of Russia’s Central Bank.
A number of his actions as president of Harvard caused controversy, including sexist remarks and a US$ 26-million lawsuit, again involving Russia. The university and a close friend of Summers’s settled a claim by the US government of a conflict of interest in Russia’s privatisation programme in 1990s, which allowed many to get rich quick. Sergey Glazyev says Summers’s new appointment could mean more trouble. “This is an attempt to further maintain an ineffecient financial system that is completely unbalanced, in which the US prints money and finances their spending and the rest of the world pays,” he says. When news of his appointment became known, the media began remembering the economic policies of the past, but also the scandals that have dogged Summers over the years. His record could prove to be a burden to the new administration, whose central promise was one of change and renewal.