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Medvedev threatens Georgia if it joins NATO

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 9
In an interview with Rustavi 2's Nino Shubladze, Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev threatened Georgia if it continues to move towards joining NATO.

"To put it mildly, we do not welcome Georgia joining NATO." Medvedev said with a grim smile. Medvedev stressed that Russia cannot ignore Georgia’s choice and reminded Shubladze that Russia has a huge nuclear arsenal. In response to Shubladze's comment that the Baltic States have become members of NATO since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Medvedev replied that while Russia does not like that the three small countries are NATO members, they are politically stable.

Translating Medvedev's words from diplomatic parlance into everyday language, it means that Russia does not have the level of influence in the Baltic countries as it does vis–a–vis Georgia. By de facto controlling Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia still exerts leverage in Georgian affairs. Moreover, Georgia does not enjoy the same kind of Western support that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do.

If not for strong and categorical Western support for the Baltic States' territorial integrity, Russia might have encouraged the ethnic Russian population of the three countries to demand sovereignty, thereby creating a potentially worse conflict that what occurred in Georgia. What happened in Transnistria in Moldova is another example of Moscow encouraging separatism in its former domains.

Medvedev acknowledged that NATO’s promise of future membership for Georgia has played a decisive role in the situation. "If not for such statements, perhaps Mr. Saakashvili would have been wiser and not moved tanks and missiles in the direction of South Ossetia. Instead he might have come to Moscow to negotiate what we had discussed before." the Russian prime minister said.

However, his comments need to be corrected: Putin and Medvedev became particularly aggressive towards Georgia after the NATO Bucharest Summit in April 2008 Georgia when did not receive a Membership Action Plan (MAP)-several months before the August War. Many Georgian analysts think that this gave Russia the green light to attack Georgia.

After the interview with Medvedev was aired on Rustavi 2, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili revealed some previously undisclosed details about his unsuccessful negotiations with Putin and Medvedev. In particular he mentioned that in April 2008 he offered the Russians a wide scale agreement which would have entailed Georgia renouncing its aspirations to join NATO; in return Russia would have taken concrete steps to reunite Abkhazia and South Ossetia with Georgia. As part of this agreement, half of Abkhazian territory would have been under the influence of the Russian Federation.

The Russian newspaper Komersant mentioned these unsuccessful negotiations in April 2008. According to Saakashvili, Putin’s response to the suggestion was "We do not exchange territories for your political orientation."

Medvedev said that if Georgia or any other country becomes a member of a military-political alliance, Russia cannot ignore this fact. "Joining NATO would be bad for Georgia. Georgia will gain nothing and it will create a long-term source of tension between our two countries." Medvedev stated.

Numerous Georgian officials and members of the opposition have already responded to Medvedev's comments. All of them have said that no threats from Russia will discourage Georgia from its strive to join NATO.

In fact, Medvedev said nothing new. Mentioning Russia's nuclear power was meant more for NATO's attention rather than Georgia's. Russia is powerful enough to quickly conquer Georgia with conventional arms. To quote from an old Russian proverb: beat your own people, so that others get scared. Russia is threatening to beat Georgia in order to scare NATO.

Under the circumstances Russia is conducting itself currently, USA and NATO should accelerate Georgia’s joining the alliance.