Russia ready to cut NATO ties if Georgia joins membership plan

Russia may sever all ties with NATO if the Western military alliance grants Georgia entry into the Membership Action Plan (MAP), Russia's NATO envoy said on Monday.

NATO refused at its summit in April to let Georgia and Ukraine into MAP, a key step for membership in the 26-nation alliance, but promised to review the decision in December. The countries had received strong U.S. backing for their bids.

"It is one thing to fuss around a U.S. protege [Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili], but quite another to give shelter to an aggressive state. In such circumstances there could be no question of cooperation," Dmitry Rogozin told RIA Novosti.

The envoy said that from a moral and political standpoint, NATO's acceptance of Georgia would be tantamount to siding with an aggressor.

Top U.S. officials including Vice President Dick Cheney have stepped up calls for Georgia to join NATO since Russia's military operation in the country, which followed Georgia's August 8 artillery attack on breakaway South Ossetia. Russia concluded its 'peace enforcement' operation in Georgia on August 12 and later recognized South Ossetia, along with breakaway Abkhazia, as independent countries, while ceasing to recognize Saakashvili as Georgia's leader.

Last month NATO said it refused to rule out the possibility of Georgia joining the military alliance in the future.

"I think that the Bucharest communique stands. The allies have said in Bucharest that one day Georgia will join NATO," Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference following NATO talks with Georgia in Brussels.

[Source: Novosti, Brussels, 08Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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