DMITRY ROGOZIN: EITHER NATO MILITARY EXERCISE IN GEORGIA IS CANCELLED OR THERE WILL BE NO RESTORATION OF MILITARY CONTACTS WITH THE ALLIANCE
Meeting of Russian and NATO chiefs of staff cancelled because of the Alliance’s planned maneuvers in Georgia.
Disturbed by NATO’s plans to run an international war game in Georgia this May and June, Moscow sent an ultimatum to the Alliance. Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said that the Alliance had better reconsider its options and cancel the military exercise or forget about restoration of military contacts with Russia. Without waiting for official reaction from Brussels, Rogozin cancelled the Russian-NATO Council meeting at the level of chiefs of staff scheduled for May 7.
NATO’s intention to run Cooperative Longbow’09/Cooperative Lancer’09, element of the Partnership for Peace NATO’s Program, in Georgia has always upset Moscow. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev commented on the matter last week when Brussels officially confirmed the plans to run the military exercise. “I don’t regard it as a correct decision. When a military alliance runs exercises near the area where tension was all but unbearable only recently and where the situation is knotty even now, it promises complications of all sorts,” Medvedev said at the joint press conference with his visiting Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev last Friday. “Decisions such as this disappoint. They do not promote fully-fledged restoration of contacts between Russia and NATO,” Medvedev added and promised that Russia would keep an eye on the developments and “make decisions, if necessary”.
It took the Kremlin three days to make up its mind. Rogozin announced cancellation of the Russian-NATO Council meeting at the level of chiefs of staff scheduled for May 7. He said Russia was not going to attend the meeting unless NATO reconsidered its plans for military exercises in Georgia. “Either we see the reaction (of the kind we hope to see), or steps will be taken. I can already say that the meeting of chiefs of staff scheduled for May 7 is not going to take place,” Rogozin told TV channel Vesti-24. The diplomat added that NATO’s decision to run a military exercise in Georgia was actually a provocation.
As a matter of fact, Moscow’s demarche only concerns military contacts with NATO severed after the conflict in Georgia last August and the subsequent recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states. Rogozin told this newspaper that the Russian-NATO Council meeting at the level of foreign ministers would take place on April 29 as scheduled. “As for military cooperation, it will become fully-fledged only when we reach political understanding,” Rogozin said. He added that the decision to cancel the chiefs of staff meeting could be reversed.
“Development of the situation in the correct direction will see military cooperation restored,” Rogozin said. “We are waiting for NATO’s reaction to our stand on the subject of military exercises in Georgia.”
Brussels initially expected the military from 23 countries to participate in the exercise in Georgia, but the list is already shorter than that. Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Estonia decided to turn down the invitations after all. Off the record, sources in Astana attributed it to unwillingness to compromise relations with Moscow. Riga and Tallinn declined comment.