Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Russia raises stakes in Georgia crisis

Russia's decision to recognize two rebellious regions of Georgia adds more diplomatic fireworks to a region already ripped apart by war. Russia's move -- despite contrary warnings from the United States and the European Union -- demonstrates that Moscow does not believe Western nations will defend democracy in the new republics of the former Soviet Union. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said any hope of peaceful co-existence between Georgia and the breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions had been shattered by Georgia's attempt to recapture the regions by force earlier this month, according to the Reuters international news service. U.S. President George W. Bush said Abkhazia and South Ossetia "must remain" part of Georgia. "Russia's action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations," Bush said. NATO and the European Union nations also condemned Russia's move. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Russia's decision to recognize the breakaway regions "absolutely unacceptable." But Medvedev, who is no doubt expressing his frustration over the West's rapid recognition of Kosovo, said Russian forces would help defend Abkhazia and South Ossetia if they were attacked. But such an attack is highly unlikely, given Russia's military strength. Western nations have discussed penalizing Russia by kicking it out of the Group of Eight or preventing it from joining the World Trade Organization.

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