Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What does Russia want?

Is Russia willing to risk the end of its post-Soviet Union rapproachment with the West over Georgia's two breakaway provinces? That's what it seemed like Wednesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev committed his military to protect South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgian attack in a pair of treaties. According to the Reuters international news service, the treaties formalize military, diplomatic and economic ties between the three governments, despite opposition from the United States and the European Union. Russia invaded the two provinces last month and routed Georgian forces in response to what it said was aggression from Tbilisi. Russia contends it invaded to stop "genocide" against ethnic Russians in the two provinces, but promptly recognized the regions as independent states. The West accused Russia of a disproportionate response and the U.S. State Department said Russia should honor its previous commitments on Georgia's territorial integrity, Reuters said. But Russia seems determined to block Georgia, and perhaps other former Soviet republics, from joining NATO and becoming part of the Western alliance. Georgia will presumably not be suitable for NATO membership until it controls its own territory, hence Russia's promise to protect South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Medvedev promised to prevent Georgia from retaking the two regions. "A repeat of the Georgian aggression ... would lead to a catastrophe on a regional scale, so no one should be in doubt that we will not allow new military adventures," Medvedev said, according to the BBC. But NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Georgia could still join the alliance during a visit to Georgia by representatives of all 26 NATO countries.

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