Saturday, September 20, 2008

We Won't Go Back Behind The Iron Curtain, Warns Medvedev As Rice Demands The West Stand Up To 'Bullying' Russia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday accused Nato of stoking up the Georgia conflict.

He said the alliance’s role in the clash showed it was unable to provide security in Europe – underlining the need for its replacement.

‘What did Nato secure, what did Nato ensure?’ he demanded. ‘Nato only provoked the conflict, and not more than that.’

A Nato spokesman said: ‘There is nothing provocative in promoting democratic reform, economic reform and supporting a country’s aspirations to move closer to the Euro-Atlantic community.’

Medvedev's comments appeared to be a response to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who warned Russia yesterday that its policies have put it on a path to isolation and irrelevance.

"They are, in fact, pushing us onto the development track that is based not on normal and civilised cooperation with other countries, but on autonomous development behind thick walls and an 'iron curtain,"' he said at a meeting with non-governmental organisations.
Stand up: Condoleezza Rice delivers her speech in Washington last night calling for a firm response to Russia

"This is not our track, and it makes no sense to return to the past."

In addition, he vowed that Russia would set its own course.

"No new outside factors, let alone outside pressure on Russia, will change our strategic course," Medvedev said.

The unusually blunt remarks made yesterday by the U.S. Secretary of State came as tensions between Washington and Moscow escalated.

But she was also admonished by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev today for her comments.

"I believe that the secretary of state should be more careful and should show greater calm and responsibility for her judgment in calling for the West to unite against Russia," Gorbachev said through an interpreter at a press conference in Philadephia.

He made his comments shortly before receiving the Liberty Medal, which was presented by former president George H.W. Bush, at the National Constitution Centre.

Gorbachev said that Russia had to respond to Georgia's military action in breakaway South Ossetia. He echoed the view that relationship between the two countries has grown increasingly strained throughout the year, reaching a new low with Russia's invasion of Georgia last month.

Dr Rice warned Russia that its policies have put it on a path to isolation and irrelevance.

In a speech in Washington, she said: 'The attack on Georgia has crystallised the course that Russia's leaders are taking and brought us to a critical moment for Russia and the world.

'We cannot afford to validate the prejudices that some Russian leaders seem to have: that if you pressure free nations enough - if you bully, and threaten, and lash out - we will cave in, and forget, and eventually concede.'

She added: 'The United States and Europe must stand up to this kind of behaviour, and all who champion it.'

However her determination was somewhat undermined by the lack of firm policy initiatives supporting her demands for a strong stand.

In a show of defiance, Russia has threatened to block Nato from using its air space for operations in Afghanistan.

The 26-member alliance upset the Kremlin by saying that its use of force in the recent conflict was disproportionate.

Sealed with a handshake: Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega, left, greets Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin yesterday

Nato has also said that Georgia will eventually be allowed to join - putting it at odds with Russia, which is fiercely opposed to any further expansion of the organisation.

In a further provocation, Moscow has also offered aid to its old Cold War ally Nicaragua. The deal appears to be a payoff to the Central American country for its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states after they broke away from Georgia.

Russia has already renewed warm relations with Cuba, the island at the centre of the missile crisis in 1962 which proved an iconic moment of the Cold War.

Cuba was offered help in areas which were devastated by the recent hurricanes, while Nicaragua has been given assurances of political support and aid for offshore oil prospecting.

Moscow's push for influence in Latin America is Russian premier Vladimir Putin's hawkish response to what he sees as U.S. interference in his own sphere of influence in the Caucasus and Black Sea.

Source: DailyMail.Co.Uk

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