Russia Vows to Support Two Enclaves

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Richard Moore

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Aug 14, 2008, 12:08:17 PM8/14/08
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President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia said Thursday that Russia would act as an international guarantor of the two pro-Russian enclaves at the center of the crisis with Georgia, and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said that Georgia could “forget about” territorial integrity because of the war.

This is a very reasonable position, given Georgia's outrageous behavior, and it clarifies the new status quo. 

In response, Mr. Bush sent American troops to Georgia to oversee a “vigorous and ongoing” humanitarian mission, in a direct challenge to Russia’s display of military dominance over the region.

I saw a Russian general being interviewed on Irish TV. When asked about the US humanitarian mission, he said there was no problem with that whatever. Russia understands very well that this 'mission' is for domestic consumption only, a 'shadow play' to make the American public think the US is doing something substantive against the media-created Demon Bear. Russia has consolidated and fortified its position in the enclaves, achieved security for the local inhabitants, and has made it clear that any Georgian violations will be severely responded to.

In an interview on Ekho Moskvy, Foreign Minster Lavrov, minister, in saying that Georgia’s territorial integrity was “de facto limited,” added that any agreement suggesting otherwise would be “deeply insulting” to the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

He also said he was not worried about the threat of international isolation, Interfax reported.

“I don’t know how they are going to isolate us,” he said.

This is the key strategic point. It is beyond Washington's power to isolate Russia, and the Bear knows it. Russia is more of a super power than the USSR ever was, now that it has economic clout and competent leadership.

rkm

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Russia Vows to Support Two Enclaves, in Retort to Bush

August 15, 2008


By ELLEN BARRY and C.J. CHIVERS

MOSCOW — President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia said Thursday that Russia would act as an international guarantor of the two pro-Russian enclaves at the center of the crisis with Georgia, and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said that Georgia could “forget about” territorial integrity because of the war.

Together, the comments offered a sharp retort to President Bush’s insistence a day earlier that “the sovereign and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.”

The Russian rebuke came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to the region to work for a settlement and to show support for the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Russian forces briefly allowed the Georgian police to return to the city of Gori on Thursday morning as the Russian troops appeared to prepare to pull out. But joint patrols were canceled three hours later and the city returned to full Russian control.

In a further sign that Russian forces remained in control of key parts of Georgian territory, Russian tanks patrolled the city of Poti, a Black Sea port farther west.

Mr. Medvedev said he would support the independence aspirations of South Ossetians and Abkhazians if they were in accordance with the United Nations Charter, international conventions of 1966 and the Helsinki Act on Security and Cooperation in European.

“You have been defending your land, and the right is on your side,” Mr. Medvedev said at a meeting with leaders of the two breakaway regions.

“Russia’s position is unchanged: we will support any decisions taken by the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in accordance with the U.N. Charter,” he said, adding that “not only do we support but we will guarantee them.”

As Ms. Rice traveled to the region, she arrived in France to meet the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the cease-fire between Russia and Georgia, in the president’s summer residence in southern France.

Ms. Rice was due later to travel to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

On Wednesday, the United States and Georgia called the Russian advances into Gori and another strategic Georgian city a violation of the cease-fire agreement struck only hours earlier.

In response, Mr. Bush sent American troops to Georgia to oversee a “vigorous and ongoing” humanitarian mission, in a direct challenge to Russia’s display of military dominance over the region. Mr. Bush demanded that Russia abide by the cease-fire and withdraw its forces or risk its place in “the diplomatic, political, economic and security structures of the 21st century.” It was his strongest warning yet of potential retaliation against Russia over the conflict.

In Gori, which was the focus of international protest after Russia shelled it and occupied it on Wednesday, the attempt at joint patrols on Thursday suggested a cooling of tensions in the city.

Gori is just 40 miles from Tbilisi, and rumors had circulated on Wednesday of a possible advance on the city.

It was not clear why the joint patrols failed, but it appeared that personnel on the ground were in conflict. Around 10 a.m. Thursday, a Russian Army major ordered Georgian and Russian police officers to patrol in pairs. But this clearly did not last. “We had to go or there would have been shooting,” said a Georgian officer, who would not give his name.

More than 30 Georgian police officers left Gori and returned to a Georgian post outside the city; shortly afterward Russian troops fired three artillery rounds. Their target was not clear.

In Poti, three Russian tanks were sighted patrolling the city. Villagers there said the Russian tanks frequently made the 30-minute drive from their base in Senaki to Poti to perform exercises on an abandoned military base, with troops jumping off their tanks and sweeping the area around them.

A Georgian state television reporter was shot, but not seriously hurt, while broadcasting live from the side of the road between Tbilisi and Gori on Thursday afternoon. The reporter, Tamara Urushadze, wearing a flack jacket marked “TV,” was speaking when muffled pops could be heard. She looked over her shoulder, then stepped sideways and fell in front of the camera. A bullet grazed her left wrist, and Ms. Urushadze continued broadcasting live as she held her bleeding arm.

In an interview on Ekho Moskvy, Foreign Minster Lavrov, minister, in saying that Georgia’s territorial integrity was “de facto limited,” added that any agreement suggesting otherwise would be “deeply insulting” to the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

He also said he was not worried about the threat of international isolation, Interfax reported.

“I don’t know how they are going to isolate us,” he said.

The decision Wednesday to send the American military, even on a humanitarian mission, deepened the United States’ commitment to Georgia and America’s allies in the former Soviet sphere, just as Russia has been determined to reassert its control in the area.

On a day the White House evoked emotional memories of the cold war, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday that the relief effort was intended “to show to Russia that we can come to the aid of a European ally, and that we can do it at will, whenever and wherever we want.” At a minimum, American forces in Georgia will test Russia’s pledge to allow relief supplies into the country; they could also deter further Russian attacks, though at the risk of a potential military confrontation.

“We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads and airspace, remain open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian transit,” Mr. Bush said. “We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia, and we expect all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country.”

Mr. Saakashvili, who had been sharply criticized what he called a failure of the West to support his country, declared the U.S. relief operation a “turning point” in the conflict, which began last Thursday when Georgian forces tried to establish control in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, only to be routed by the Russians.

Mr. Saakashvili interpreted the aid operation as a decision to defend Georgia’s ports and airports, though Bush administration and Pentagon officials quickly made it clear that would not be the case. A senior administration official said, “We won’t be protecting the airport or seaport, but we’ll certainly protect our assets if we need to.”

Mr. Bush spoke in the Rose Garden of the White House, flanked by his secretaries of state and defense, Condoleezza Rice and Robert M. Gates. He said that Ms. Rice would fly to France to support its mediation efforts and then to Georgia “to continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia.”

State Department officials said there were no plans for Ms. Rice to go to Moscow. Mr. Bush’s remarks, like the military operation he ordered, reflected a growing apprehension within the White House over Russia’s offensive, as well as mounting frustration that Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom Mr. Bush often calls a friend, was unmoved by appeals for moderation. Underscoring the urgency, Mr. Bush, who had remained at the Olympics in Beijing while the conflict erupted, postponed a planned trip to his ranch in Crawford, Tex., which was to have begun on Thursday.

The first relief aircraft, a C-17 transporter carrying medical supplies and materials for shelter for thousands displaced by the fighting, arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, on Wednesday; a second was due Thursday.

Ms. Rice called Mr. Lavrov, and informed him about the relief operation. The presence of American troops to help the aid mission will also allow the United States to monitor whether Russia was honoring the cease-fire.

At a news conference at the State Department, Ms. Rice evoked some of the darkest memories of the cold war, though she stopped well short of promises of direct military support to Georgia.

“This is not 1968, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can invade its neighbor, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it,” she said. “Things have changed.”

She and Mr. Bush gave credence to Georgia’s accusations that Russian forces continued to operate in violation of the cease-fire. Russia insisted that all of its operations were permitted under the agreement.

The cease-fire included a provision that required Russian forces to withdraw to their “normal bases of encampment” but also allowed them to “implement additional security measures.”

A senior American official said the vague language “would allow the Russians to do almost anything.”

Only hours after the agreement was reached early Wednesday, a Russian tank battalion occupied parts of Gori, a strategic city in central Georgia. Hundreds of additional Russian soldiers also poured over the border from Russia into South Ossetia, accompanied by fuel trucks and attack helicopters.

The presence of Russian forces in Gori frayed nerves as rumors circulated of an attack on Tbilisi itself. A Russian battalion commander, at a checkpoint on the highway from Gori to the capital, spoke menacingly of Mr. Saakashvili.

“If he doesn’t understand the situation, we’ll have to go further,” the commander said on the condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t seem to understand that the Russian Army is much stronger than the Georgian Army. His tanks remain in their places. His air force is dead. His navy is also. His army is demoralized.”

Ellen Barry reported from Moscow and C.J. Chivers from Gori, Georgia. Reporting was contributed by Steven Lee Myers, Thom Shanker and Helene Cooper from Washington, Sabrina Tavernise from Gori, and Andrew Kramer from Tbilisi, Georgia.



 



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