A warning to aggressors: Russia

The leaders of the Russia-led defence pact backed Russia to the hilt in its conflict with Georgia and strongly denounced the Georgian attack on South Ossetia.

The head of states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) voiced deep concerned over Georgia’s "attempt to resolve by force" the problem of its breakaway territories, and welcomed Russia’s "active role" in rebuilding peace, said a declaration adopted at a one-day summit of the post-Soviet defence alliance here on Friday.

The pact includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev said the consensus displayed at the summit on the South Ossetia crisis demonstrated enhanced cohesion of the member-states and served a warning to potential aggressors.

"We favour political settlement of disputes, but are ready to forcefully defend our interests," Mr. Medvedev said at a post-summit press conference.

"The CSTO has been and will remain a guarantor of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of our countries," he stated.

The Russian leader said the member-states would independently decide whether to follow Russia’s lead and recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Mr. Medvedev warned the West against drawing "wrong conclusions" from the Caucasus crisis and rearming Georgia after it committed aggression.

"Those who financed Georgia’s arms buildup should learn their lesson," he said.

International security mechanisms demonstrated their weakness in the Caucasus crisis and should be replaced by a new security architecture that would be multi-polar and free from the domination by a single state, said Mr. Medvedev.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday accused the U.S. of fanning Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia by supporting Tbilisi’s NATO membership bid.

The promise of speedy membership of NATO that U.S. Vice- President Dick Cheney gave Georgia during his visit to Tbilisi on Wednesday "strengthen[s] the [Mikheil] Saakashvili regime’s dangerous feeling of impunity and encourages its dangerous ambitions," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters on Friday.

Commenting on the arrival of the USS Mount Whitney, a sophisticated command warship from the U.S. navy’s Sixth Fleet, in the Black Sea he said Russia could ask the U.N to look into the breach by NATO of international restrictions on the number of foreign warships in the region.

[Source: The Hindu, Moscow, 06Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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