Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Russia signs treaties with 2 breakaway regions

Sept. 17, 2008 MOSCOW (AP) 

Russia cemented its ties with Georgia's two breakaway provinces on Wednesday by signing friendship treaties envisaging close economic and military cooperation.

President Dmitry Medvedev pledged that Russia will protect Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia has recognized as two independent nations after the last month's war with Georgia.
"Our key task today is to ensure security of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Medvedev said during an elaborate signing ceremony in the Kremlin. "The treaties envisage that our nations together will take all the necessary steps to fend off threats to peace. We won't allow any new military adventurism, no one must have any illusions about that."
Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze dismissed the treaties as legally void.
"Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region are inseparable parts of Georgia," Vashadze told reporters in the Georgian capital. "The treaties signed in Moscow carry no legal force and contradict international law."
Eduard Kokoity, the South Ossetian leader, and Sergei Bagapsh, the leader of Abkhazia, signed the treaties with Medvedev.
Russia has said it will permanently deploy nearly 8,000 troops in the regions on a long-term basis.  MORE....

September 14, 2008

Unify the Baltic States to Counter Russia

By Jim Hoagland

WASHINGTON -- Russia is developing a comprehensive strategy of bleeding American power around the globe. The U.S. must respond not at its point of greatest weakness, as the Bush administration may be tempted to do, but at its points of strength.
Russia's leaders have made it clear over the past month that their invasion of Georgia is not an isolated retaliation against a troublesome small neighbor. It is part of a broader effort by the Kremlin to establish new rules for big-power relations on its own terms while U.S. forces are stretched to their limits in the greater Middle East.
The emerging change in power relationships does not rise to the level so far of a new Cold War. Look at President Dmitry Medvedev's recent tut-tuting comments about U.S. economic and military problems and you sense that he subscribes to the opportunist's creed of kicking people when they are down: Of course you kick them. When else are you going to kick them?
But the Kremlin's larger intent -- to create "a new world order" on the back of gathering U.S. weakness -- has emerged with stunning clarity and velocity in the past three months. Russia is thinking strategically about world affairs while an expiring U.S. administration is not.
That sentiment echoes more loudly through Russia's declarations in the aftermath of the Georgian crisis. "A single-pole world is unacceptable," Medvedev said in laying out his five principles of international behavior for the 21st century on Aug. 31. "We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States."
Medvedev also asserted Russia's claim to a sphere of "privileged interests" in former Soviet states and other neighboring countries. The unspoken corollary of this fifth Medvedev principle was that the U.S. and its NATO partners were not strong enough to resist this doctrine of hegemony.
It is no coincidence that the Russian resurgence comes at an awkward time for the United States. Advisers to both Barack Obama and John McCain had hoped for a relatively quiet six-month period after the next inaugural to test or develop a new relationship with Medvedev. But those hopes have evaporated since the invasion of Georgia and the expansion of Russian ambitions on the world stage.
Close cooperation between President Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who currently serves as president of the European Union -- has prevented the Russians from using the conflict in Georgia to divide Washington and its NATO allies. But wedge-driving remains a primary Russian goal that must be resisted.
That can best be accomplished by concentrating on Russia's northern flank, where NATO is united and relatively strong, rather than becoming embroiled in new quarrels over a future NATO role in the Caucasus region and in Ukraine, where the alliance is still divided.
This is the time for Bush and other NATO leaders to give high priority and visibility to discussions with Finland, which is currently considering joining NATO. If Finland joins, Sweden might follow, Swedish officials say.
Alliance members also should move now to bolster the defenses of the three Baltic NATO members -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- as Kurt Volker, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, has recently suggested. The holding of no-notice joint maneuvers with the Baltic States would be one way to catch Russia's attention.
These steps would be far more effective than an overtly political effort by Bush to make one last stand for Georgian and Ukrainian membership plans at NATO's December meeting. That would be a quixotic, destructive gesture that has no chance of success.
A spirited debate is erupting piecemeal within the administration over whether to give priority to a northern flank initiative like the one I have described or to confront the Russians politically and verbally in Georgia. Go north, Mr. President.
And make that debate much more systematic and comprehensive. After seven years of fighting jihadist terrorism globally and pursuing shooting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you must now adjust U.S. global strategy to deal with a Russian bid to fashion a new world order essentially without you.  MORE....


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