Nabi Abdullaev / Moscow Times & London Daily Mail – 2008-08-31 22:39:36
Putin Accuses US Over Georgia
Nabi Abdullaev / Moscow Times
MOSCOW (August 28, 2008) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused the United States of orchestrating the military conflict in Georgia in order to boost the chances of a US presidential candidate.
In an interview that was to air on CNN late Thursday, Putin said Washington had encouraged Tbilisi to attack South Ossetia to give one presidential candidate an edge in the hotly contested US election, CNN said on its web site.
Republican John McCain, a weathered foreign policy hawk and a staunch critic of Russia, is in a neck-and-neck race with Democrat Barack Obama for the White House.
Putin did not specify a candidate. Reached by telephone, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say which one he was referring to.
McCain is an ally of outgoing US President George W. Bush. Following Russia’s invasion of Georgia, McCain lashed out at Russia, calling on the Bush administration to pull out from a joint space exploration project with Russia and repeating a demand that Russia be kicked out of the Group of Eight.
The White House press office had no immediate comment on Putin’s statement.
At the onset of the conflict with Georgia earlier this month, Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected spin doctor and United Russia deputy in the State Duma, described the escalation as a strategy by US neo-cons to boost McCain’s popularity. In televised comments, Markov accused US Vice President Dick Cheney of masterminding the strategy. Cheney will visit Georgia next week.
Speaking at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin told CNN that Russia had to send its troops into South Ossetia to rebuff Georgian forces in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
He also rebuked the US administration for not having done more to stop Georgia’s attack early Aug. 8. Led by US-educated President Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia is the most enthusiastic US ally among the former Soviet republics.
“In the interview with CNN, there were lots of tough but truthful comments,” Peskov said. “But in the interview, you also can see a desire and readiness to cooperate with all countries.”
Putin has stepped into US elections before. In June 2004, when Bush was struggling for re-election amid criticism for going to war with Iraq without just cause, then-President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian secret services had obtained information that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Putin’s announcement appeared to stun the White House, and analysts at the time dismissed it as a clumsy attempt by Putin to help Bush win re-election.
The formal pretext for the US invasion of Iraq — spelled out by Bush in 2003 — was Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and its refusal to allow United Nations monitors to inspect them. No traces of the weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.
Separately Thursday, Putin announced that 19 US poultry companies would be banned from exporting to Russia after Russian health and agriculture officials randomly tested their products and discovered they were full of antibiotics and arsenic, CNN reported.
The ban is unrelated to the Georgia conflict, Putin said.
© Copyright Nabi Abdullaev, Moscow Times, 2008
Russia Warns US Naval Build-up
May Lead to War and Accuses America of
Shipping Arms to Georgia
LONDON (August 28, 2008) — Tensions between Russia and the West were ratcheted even higher today after Moscow warned that the American naval build-up in the Black Sea could be seen as a ‘declaration of war’.
As the fallout over the Kremlin’s invasion of Georgia continued, Russian military chiefs warned that they were monitoring closely the appearance of US warships in the region.
Russia’s foreign minister also accused Foreign Secretary David Miliband of being ‘hypocritical’ in his criticism of Moscow, pointing out that Britain had itself rushed to defend the Falklands. But today Mr Miliband said there was ‘no question’ of a war with Russia.
He also said the situation marked ‘a clear end to the relative and growing calm in and around Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union’, telling the BBC that the conflict heralded a new instability.
The rhetoric flew as a South Ossetian interior minister claimed an unmanned Georgian spy plane had been shot down in the territory this morning.
Mikhail Mindzayev said the drone was shot down over South Ossetia today by local forces. He said it had crossed into South Ossetia from the south, meaning it was of Georgian origin. A Georgian official denied that the country had sent any drone over South Ossetia. Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili says Mindzayev is ‘seeing things’.
Adding to the tension, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said European Union leaders are considering imposing sanctions against Russia ahead of a summit on Monday to discuss the situation in Georgia.
Russia hit back, saying such talk was the product of a ‘sick imagination’ and Western confusion. ‘Apart from that my friend Kouchner also said that we will soon attack Moldova and Ukraine and the Crimea,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today. ‘But that is a sick imagination and probably that applies to sanctions as well,’ Lavrov told reporters in the Tajik capital.
‘I think it is a demonstration of complete confusion,’ he said.
At the same time Russia’s fellow members of the G8 group of rich nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the UK – issued a statement deploring ‘Russia’s excessive use of military force’.
Meanwhile, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev threatened to use his country’s military machine to respond to the deployment of an American anti-missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
A senior Russian general, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, criticised the arrival of the US Coastguard cutter Dallas at the Black Sea port of Batumi today, the second of an expected three US ships sent to deliver aid to Georgia.
The Dallas had been due to land in the Georgian port of Poti, where Russian troops are still manning checkpoints. But without explanation it docked 50 miles south in Batumi, a port outside Russian control.
Nato has said it is also undertaking pre-arranged exercises in the Black Sea involving US, German, Spanish and Polish ships.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused the Americans of bringing in weapons for war-torn Georgia under the guise of humanitarian aid — a charge dismissed by the White House as ‘ridiculous’.
Mr Miliband, asked whether NATO would go to war against Moscow if it were to attack a neighbouring country or ally again, said: ‘We don’t want all-out war with Russia … There’s no question of launching an all-out war against Russia.’
With Russian newspapers and TV stations today highlighting maps showing the build-up of Western forces in the region, General Nogovitsyn warned the NATO presence could not be allowed to grow ‘indefinitely’.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to Nato, warned against Western interference in Georgia’s breakaway regions, which were recognised as independent by Moscow on Tuesday.
‘If Nato takes military actions against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, acting solely in support of Tbilisi, this will mean a declaration of war on Russia,’ he said.
Prime minister Vladimir Putin reasserted his own influence as he met president Medvedev. Mr Putin’s spokesman said: ‘Certainly some measures of precaution are being taken. It’s not a common practice to deliver humanitarian aid using battleships.’
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov last night lashed out against Britain and Nato following Mr Miliband’s heavy criticism of Russia’s conflict with Georgia.
‘The moralising that we hear from our Western colleagues is not based on facts,’ Mr Lavrov said. ‘It’s strange that our actions to defend our citizens right on our borders should be criticised by Britain, considering its actions in the Falkland Islands, which are the other side of the world.’
In one small gesture of co-operation, Russian forces turned over 12 Georgian soldiers on the border of Abkhazia.
Georgia’s former president Eduard Shevardnadze — who was also foreign minister in the former Soviet Union — said Russia would live to regret its recognition of rebel regions and called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.
As the drama unfolded, the Foreign Secretary urged the West to make Russia pay for its decision to use military force to carve up the fledgling democracy on its doorstep.
Mr Miliband accused the Russians of encouraging the ‘festering divisions’ of the Cold War after they used military might to impose their authority in the Caucasus region.
His provocative intervention came in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, which diplomats fear could be the next target.
On a day of rising tensions yesterday:
• Ukraine threatened to increase the rent it charges the Russian fleet for the use of its Black Sea port;
• France predicted that Ukraine and Moldova could be the next Russian targets;
• Mikhail Gorbachev compared the showdown to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war.
Mr Miliband told the Ukrainians: ‘We need to support your rights, and raise the costs to Russia of disregarding its responsibilities.’
The Foreign Secretary flew to Kiev to stage a show of support for the Ukraine, which like Georgia has a pro-Western president with ambitions of joining both Nato and the European Union, a move away from Moscow’s sphere of influence which has angered the Kremlin.
Ukraine also has a large Russian-speaking population, but is much bigger than Georgia.
Mr Miliband said: ‘Russia is more isolated, less trusted and less respected than two weeks ago. It has made military gains in the short term. ‘But over time it will feel the economic and political losses.
‘If she truly wants respect and influence, and the benefits which flow from it, then Russia needs to change course.’
He said Russia was breaking the terms of a ceasefire and suggested Moscow could be made to pay a heavy economic price for its actions.
Mr Miliband accused Mr Medvedev of trying to ‘redraw the map’ of the Caucasus through his unilateral recognition of the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and said he had a ‘big responsibility not to start’ a new Cold War.
The response of the EU and Nato to such ‘aggression’ should be one of ‘hard-headed engagement’ in reviewing relations with Russia.
‘That means bolstering our allies, rebalancing the energy relationship with Russia, defending the rules of international institutions, and renewing efforts to tackle “unresolved conflicts”,’ he said.
And Mr Gorbachev urged political leaders in the Kremlin and the West to act now to stop matters running out of control.
‘The time is ripe to stop scaring each other and to do something constructive,’ he said. ‘It is a vital need to warn of the disastrous effects any impulsive, ill-considered step may trigger.’
Earlier, Ukraine said it wanted to discuss charging Russia more for the lease of a Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea.
Russia has said any renegotiation would break a 1997 agreement between the two countries, under which it leases the base for £50million a year until 2017.
Gordon Brown will attend an unprecedented meeting of leaders of the EU’s 27 member states on Monday to discuss their response to Russia’s actions.
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