Voices from Russia

Friday, 22 August 2008

Russian-NATO Cooperation Mothballed

Russia’s Defence Ministry officially informed NATO’s headquarters in Brussels of its decision to suspend all military cooperation with its counterparts in the alliance. The move came after similar notices were received by the defence ministries of Norway, Estonia, and Latvia. This means that all joint events between the Russian army and NATO countries planned for this year will be either cancelled or rescheduled, figuratively mothballed. Still, Moscow has so far made no reported attempt to cease relations with Brussels, as it did in March 1999 after NATO aircraft began strikes on Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Official NATO envoys were then given 48 hours to leave Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Thursday at a Moscow briefing, “We aren’t planning to slam the door, and they are keeping the door open, too. It will all depend on NATO’s choice, on their priorities, not ours”. He said Russia does not need the cooperation as much as NATO does. The alliance wants Moscow for a partner. It wants our support, especially with regard to international operations in Afghanistan, “which is bound to decide the alliance’s future”. “Russia’s support [in Afghanistan] is crucial for NATO”, Mr Lavrov added.

It would certainly be too simple to believe that Moscow-NATO relations became strained after Russia launched its “peace enforcement” operation against Georgian aggressors who ruthlessly bombed and shelled the peaceful city of Tskhinvali, killing innocent civilians, women, children and old people, and Russian peacekeepers who happened to be there on a noble mission of keeping peace in that unstable Caucasian region. There had been an increase in tension since Brussels refused, possibly under Washington’s pressure, to heed Russia’s concerns over the unfair distribution of heavy weaponry quotas under the CFE treaty, which happened after the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the accession of former socialist countries and some Soviet republics to NATO.

Brussels was indeed quite comfortable with more tanks, armoured vehicles, heavy artillery, and aircraft in all the main theatres of operation, and with “grey zones” not subject to inspection. NATO could deploy any number of weapons in these zones without looking back at the CFE. The Alliance preferred to ignore Moscow’s disapproval, and we know what happened next. The CFE collapsed, burying every instrument of defence transparency and trust in Europe.

Later, the Ukraine’s and Georgia’s NATO accession plans brought yet another disturbing development into Moscow’s relations with Brussels. NATO began engaging Kiev in its projects with persistence worthy of a better use, even despite the fact that the majority of the Ukrainian population was strongly opposed to the plan. Firstly, Ukraine’s neutrality is documented in its constitution. Secondly, a NATO rule says a country cannot be admitted unless its population fully supports the move. But, what does Brussels care for rules if they are contrary to its political and military priorities? NATO’s relations with Georgia are even more incredible. NATO isn’t even baffled by the fact that the country has serous conflicts with its own breakaway regions that were subdued by Georgian forces, suffered ethnic cleansing, and finally proclaimed themselves independent.

Neither is NATO put off by the belligerent rhetoric used by Tbilisi officials who openly threaten to solve the country’s territorial disputes by force. NATO countries and their allies spared no effort or money to equip, support, and train the Georgian army. We all know what happened next. In violation of all international agreements, the Georgian army invaded the responsibility zone of peacekeeping forces stationed there to separate the opponents. Upon the orders of President Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian army committed an atrocious act of aggression and genocide against civilian population, killing about 2,000 Russian citizens, destroying the regions’ economic assets, social infrastructure, and housing. Russia then exercised its legitimate right to protect its peacekeepers and citizens, which Brussels condemned as excessive use of force at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting that followed at US insistence. That, after what that country’s army did to the former Yugoslavia!

Incidentally, shortly before that Washington vetoed Russia’s request to hold an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Russia Council where Russia’s envoy to the bloc, Dmitri Rogozin, was to tell his partners the truth about what really happened in South Ossetia. He would have given facts undistorted by Western propaganda, which, unfortunately, was what Western media did. A logical question arises. Why do we need the NATO-Russia Council at all, a body ostensibly established to give Moscow and its NATO partners a chance to freely exchange opinions on important international issues without external pressure? It was expected to be different from the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC), where 26 countries had opposed Russia alone. Apparently, certain NATO leaders aren’t happy with an honest, unbiased dialogue and partnership with Moscow. They prefer a policy of confrontation and ultimatums. Well, Russia has a response to that. As Foreign Minister Lavrov put it, Russia needs NATO as much as NATO needs Russia. No more, no less.

The programmes jointly implemented by Moscow and NATO have been drafted to incorporate the interests of all partners. They involve such issues as military reform, anti-terrorist effort, exchange of military delegations, training Afghan and Central Asian agencies in tactics to combat drug-trafficking, theatre missile defence (not to be confused with the planned US missile defence in Eastern Europe), and crisis management. The latter includes liquidating the aftermath of natural disasters, fighting WMD and missile technology proliferation, plus illegal migration, shipwreck rescue, and much more. We have working groups and cooperation committees on airspace control, scientific research, the environment, and a mechanism of permanent consultations on global political issues. Many of these programs could be mothballed now. Most importantly, the NATO-Russia anti-terrorist cooperation is at risk.

The Russian guided missile frigate Ladny never went to the Mediterranean, where it was to participate in a NATO anti-terror operation, Active Endeavour. As for anti-terrorist effort in Afghanistan, Moscow has not yet banned NATO aircraft carrying cargo to its contingents fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda to fly across its territory on their way to Central Asia. Neither is there any hint that transportation of such cargo by Russian railways was interrupted, at least not yet.

The Kremlin could be waiting for Brussels to react to the suspension of military cooperation, the cancellation of joint manoeuvres, and of the planned exchange of military delegations. It will probably make further decisions proceeding from Brussels’ moves. The choice is larger than either party would be comfortable with. It is NATO’s turn to make a move. Its political and military competence is being tested now, both in Afghanistan and in Europe.

22 August 2008

Nikita Petrov

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20080822/116227003.html

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Russia Says Military Pullout from Georgia Complete

Russia’s defence minister said on Friday the military completed the withdrawal of troops from Georgia as stipulated in a peace deal brokered by the French president last week. The six-point plan to end hostilities requires Russia’s troops to pull back to their positions before 8 August, but, allows its peacekeepers to take “additional security measures” in a buffer zone near breakaway South Ossetia, inside Georgia proper. “The Russian side has fulfilled the agreements set out in the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan drawn up in Moscow,” Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in a report to President Dmitri Medvedev. “The units’ withdrawal took place without upset, and was concluded according to plan at 19.50 Moscow time [15.50 GMT, 11.50 EDT]”, he said. The troops moved back into South Ossetia, and some are already at their bases, he said.

The announcement was immediately rejected by Georgia, as well as American and French leaders. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters that President George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy discussed the issue over the phone, and agreed that “Russia is not in compliance and that Russia needs to come into compliance now”. Russia has come under severe pressure from Western powers since its peace enforcement operation in response to Georgia’s ground and air offensive to gain control over South Ossetia, a small province home to around 70,000 people that broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s. Large numbers of civilians died in the Georgian onslaught, although figures still remain unclear, and thousands were forced to flee the province, mainly across the border into Russia.

On Tuesday, NATO said it was freezing contacts with Russia until it pulled its troops out of Georgia, and on the same day Western powers submitted a draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Georgia. Russia responded on Wednesday with its own draft Security Council resolution, reiterating the six-point peace plan signed last week by the parties involved, including the stipulation that Russia may take “additional security measures” in Georgia, while omitting any reference to Georgia’s territorial integrity.

The six points agreed by the Russian and French leaders and repeated in the draft resolution include non-use of force, a definitive end to hostilities, free access to humanitarian aid, and a pullback of Georgian troops to their bases. The remaining points address more controversial issues, the withdrawal of Russian forces to “the line prior to the beginning of hostilities”, but, only after international mechanisms are set up allowing Russian peacekeepers to “take additional security measures”, and also the launch of “an international discussion of lasting security and stability arrangements for South Ossetia and Abkhazia”. President Medvedev said that [South Ossetia and Abkhazia] should be allowed to make their own decisions on their future status.

22 August 2008

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080822/116226749.html

Editor’s Note:

Why is GWB so fired-up over “democracy” when he refuses to let the South Ossetians and Abkhazians to decide their own futures? Hold a plebiscite, it is that simple. Poll the residents, and let them decide. He does not wish that because both regions would vote to join Russia. This is where right-wing commentators such as Ralph Peters (and Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, et al) are completely off the beam. Note well that I said “right-wing”, not “conservative”. Their only desire is to “punish” Russia for refusing to jump on the western bandwagon touting nihilism and hedonism. Russia has its own traditions, culture, and faith, and it sees no need to import ideas from America, thank you very much.

Official America is throwing one of its juvenile temper tantrums. I would warn my foreign readers not to confuse the American chattering class with the bulk of Americans, who are decent and well-grounded people, who don’t wish to bully the world. Ordinary Americans who come to Russia, for instance, easily see that they have been lied to, and I can assure you that there are fewer things more fearsome than an American who feels that they have been lied to. Most Americans are not swallowing the Bush fairy tale, and that is why the Western media has dropped Georgia off the radar screen for the most part. A gigantic campaign in the media has lead to nought. There shall be more screaming from Washington and the right-wing pundits, but, America is war-weary and wants peace as much as Russia does.

I would say to the South Ossetian people, “Forgive us. We have wronged you by arming a dictator. There is no excuse for what we have done”. I have every confidence that the reply would be, “We don’t blame you for the gang in Washington. Sit down here by me, and let’s be friends”.

That is what the Good Lord wants, and that is what we should do. Decency demands it.

BMD

Ukrainian Opposition to Send Georgian Leader Neckties to Chew On

The serious reason behind all the fun in Donetsk. South Ossetian refugees fleeing the Georgian genocide, ordinary Ukrainians are sending aid to them for they support Russia, not the West.

The Ukraine’s main opposition party pledged to send 365 neckties to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who was recently caught on camera nervously chewing his tie whilst discussing the Georgian-Russian conflict. Mr Saakashvili caused an internet sensation with his tie-chewing antics, captured during a phone conversation with a top Western official and aired by the BBC, and also over footage of him running in apparent terror after speaking to reporters, believing he was about to be attacked by Russian planes.

Party of Regions lawmaker Boris Kolesnikov told a crowd of supporters in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, “We already bought Saakashvili spiked running shoes, similar to those worn by the Jamaican sprinter who won the Olympic 100 metres. We will also buy him 365 neckties, so that he will have enough to chew on every day of the year”. After the lawmaker’s speech on the main square in Donetsk, the centre of the eastern Ukraine’s coal mining industry, five heavy goods vehicles left the square carrying aid for children in South Ossetia, devastated by Georgia’s 8 August military offensive.

Although the Ukraine’s pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko was vocal in his support for Saakashvili and his condemnation of Russia’s retaliation to Georgia’s offensive, his stance was not backed by Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, once his closest ally. Earlier this week, the president’s office accused the premier of betraying national interests by refusing to speak out against Russia. Since the start of the Russian military response to the Georgian invasion, which was resoundingly condemned by NATO, supporters of Georgia held low-key rallies against the “Russian occupation” of Georgia near Kiev’s Independence Square. However, the protests inspired little local support.

22 August 2008

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/world/20080822/116219864.html

General Nogovitsyn: Georgia Preparing For Military Action

Filed under: military,politics,Russian,war and conflict — 01varvara @ 00.00

Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn (1952- ), deputy chief of staff

Georgia is preparing for military action in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a senior Russian military official warned Friday. “We registered an increase in [Georgian] reconnaissance activities and preparations for armed actions in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone”, Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian military’s general staff, told a news conference.

Georgia embarked on a programme to increase its weapons and military capability in the past few years, General Nogovitsyn added. According to information at his disposal, since 2005, the number of Georgian tanks increased from 98 to 183, armoured vehicles from 83 to 134, artillery weapons from 96 to 238, combat helicopters from 3 to 9, and combat aircraft from 7 to 9. He said Russia reserved the right to build up its peacekeeping contingent in the Georgian conflict zone. “The number of peacekeepers in Abkhazia will be 2,142 personnel, and the number of peacekeepers in South Ossetia will be fixed at a later date”, General Nogovitsyn said.

He also said Russia set up 18 peacekeeping posts in South Ossetia and would build as many in Abkhazia “in order to avert looters and the transportation of arms and ammunition”. Meanwhile, Russia continues its withdrawal of troops from Georgia. In addition, 3 fighter aircraft and 25 strike aircraft involved in the recent military operations in Georgia returned to their permanent bases, General Nogovitsyn said.

22 August 2008

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20080822/116215518.html

Editor’s Note:

Pass the E-Z Widers! Saakashvili is smokin’ some bad-ass weed, and let’s all get in on it! Truly, I would rather believe that than the alternative… that he is completely and righteously barmy and entirely divorced from reality. The latter is absolutely scary… the man has support in Washington and does not care for the consequences of his actions. Where is the Terminator when we need him?

BMD

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