Friday, July 24, 2009
From Russia with love?
Was Russian President Dmitiri Medvedev sending a peace message to Washington as one of his top diplomats threatened economic sanctions against companies that sell weapons to Georgia? In a television interview broadcast Sunday, after U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to former Soviet republics Georgia and Ukraine, Medvedev referred to both states as independent "countries," according to the New York Times, even though Russia has vociferously opposed their efforts to join the Western alliance. Medvedev acknowledged his country's desire for "normal, working, friendly relations with the United States -- mutually beneficial relations" in the interview with Russian television station NTV, the Times said. On Friday, just as Biden returned from a visit to Georgia and Ukraine, Dmitri Rogozin, Russia's envoy to NATO, said Medvedev had decreed that sanctions would be imposed on any company that helped the two former Soviet republics rebuild their military arsenals. Georgia's armed forces were routed last year in a brief war with Russia over two provinces that broke away from Tblisi. Many observers speculated at the time that Russia's anger over the two country's bids for NATO membership was actually the reason for the war. Of course, Biden did not specifically promise military aid, even though such an arrangement would seem logical, but assured Georgia and Ukraine that the United States would not abandon them if it got friendlier with Russia, the Times said. Adding to the drama, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Thursday that the United States was committed to upgrading the Georgian military to NATO standards, the Times said. So it seems that Medvedev was trying to defuse the obvious friction when he told NTV that better relations between Russia and the United States would not cause "deterioration of our ties with other countries or of U.S. relations with some other countries, including Ukraine and Georgia.” Then again, Medvedev did not explain why Moscow has not withdrawn its troops from Georgian territory as required by the accord that ended last year's war.