Moscow warns NATO on Georgia membership

Georgia’s membership of NATO would destabilise both the western alliance and the situation in the Caucasus, said Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev at a meeting of the Valdai discussion club in the Kremlin.

Answering a question from The Hindu Editor-in-Chief N. Ram about Russian actions if Georgia gets the NATO ticket, Mr. Medvedev said he would not shy away from confrontation with the Atlantic Alliance, though he would “very much like to avoid” this turn of events.

“We have made our choice. Russia will not joke around if this happens. Everyone should think about this,” he said.

The NATO Council met for the first time in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Monday in a demonstration of support for President Mikheil Saakashvili and in a direct challenge to Russia, which had openly called on NATO not to hold the meeting in Tbilisi. Moscow said the Georgian leadership would read the meeting as a clear endorsement of its recent aggression against South Ossetia.

Mr. Medvedev warned that NATO was courting trouble by promising membership to such a psychologically unstable leader as Mr. Saakashvili. The Georgian leader is “a totally unpredictable man, a man suffering from a number of pathologies and who is, unfortunately, in a mentally unbalanced state,” said Mr. Medvedev.

He added that Mr. Saakashvili “uses drugs,” referring to the Georgian leader’s love for an energy drink, which is banned in some countries as a drink affecting people in the same way as narcotics. “If our colleagues in NATO want to welcome such a leader, then let them. For us new tensions that would emerge in the region would occasion very difficult choices,” said Mr. Medvedev.

Welcoming NATO Ambassadors in Tbilisi on Monday, Mr. Saakashvili said Georgia’s proper and rightful place is in NATO and that both sides should work hard to put Georgia on track to join what he called the “Euro-Atlantic family.”

Russia has said NATO would be crossing the red line by giving membership to Georgia. “We will not tolerate it,” said Mr. Medvedev.

Russia’s NATO Envoy Dmitry Rogozin said on Monday Moscow would sever all ties with the alliance if it inducts Georgia.

[Source: The Hindu, Moscow, 16Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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