Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tension Ahead of Monday EU Meeting

Reuters is reporting that Russia continues to play a heavy hand ahead of Monday's EU meeting. President Medvedev has threatened to retaliate with sanctions against any countries taking what Russia sees as "aggressive" actions.

"Russia does not want confrontation with any country. Russia does not plan to isolate itself," Medvedev said in an interview with Russia's three main television stations.

But he added: "Everyone should understand that if someone launches an aggressive sortie, he will receive a response." He said Russian law allowed the Kremlin to impose sanctions on other states, though it preferred not to go down that path.

Russia continues to contend that their invasion of Georgia was necessary to halt a genocide in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

the Kremlin said it acted to prevent what it called genocide against the separatist regions.

If they have evidence of such action, they should bring it before the international community by filing war crimes charges against the responsible people or against the Georgian government itself. Without such action by Georgia, their charges will be interpreted as just more hot air.

Georgia called for the EU to provide monitors to replace the Russian "peacekeepers"

Georgia urged the European Union to impose sanctions against those doing business with the two separatist regions, authorize a civilian mission to monitor buffer zones around them and give Tbilisi about $2 billion to help to help repair damage.

"Europe can do a lot, starting with sending a mission of civilian monitors, which would lead to an international peacekeeping mechanism that would replace the presence of Russian troops," Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze told Reuters in Brussels.

While the UK favors a direct response to Russian aggression in the area, many continental powers, especially France and Germany, favor a more nuanced approach.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Russia's intervention in Georgia was dangerous and unacceptable.

"In the light of Russian actions, the EU should review -- root and branch -- our relationship with Russia," Brown wrote in a comment published in Britain's Observer newspaper.

The German foreign minister said Moscow deserved criticism but Europe needed cooperation with Russia.

"Europe would only be hurting itself if we were to get full of emotion and slam all the doors shut to the rooms that we will want to enter afterwards," Steinmeier said.

Russia supplies more than a quarter of Europe's gas needs. Some observers say this makes tough EU sanctions unlikely.

The AP reports that Russia has strengthened its military commitment to South Ossetia and Abkhazia:

MOSCOW - Russia's president said Sunday his country will give military aid to the two separatist regions at the center of the war with Georgia — signaling Moscow has no intention of backing down in the face of Western pressure.
Medvedev's decision Tuesday to recognize the Georgian breakaway provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent drew condemnation from the West. Though no other countries have followed Russia's lead, Medvedev reaffirmed the decision on Sunday.

"We have made our decision, and it's irreversible," he said in a speech broadcast on Russian television.

In particular, Medvedev has signaled that he views the confrontation in the Caucasus as a way to challenge US dominance of international affairs.

Dmitry Medvedev also warned that American domination of world affairs is unacceptable, though he insisted that Russia did not want hostile relations with the United States and other Western nations.
Medvedev said Sunday the world would be more stable if the U.S. was less dominant.

"The world must be multi-polar; domination is unacceptable," he said. "We can't accept the world order where all decisions are made by one nation, even by such serious and authoritative nation as the United States. Such a world would be unstable and prone to conflicts."