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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Georgia Lashes Out at Russia at U.N., Moves Towards NATO

While the maniacal dictators of Venezula and Iran, Russia's allies, were attacking the United States at the U.N. last week, America's new ally Georgia was returning fire against Russia. Kommersant reports on Russia's total foreign policy failure in Georgia, driving the country right into the welcoming arms of NATO:

Saakashvili made his eyebrow-raising appearance at the Friday session of the UN General Assembly in New York. During his 20-minute expose of Russia's destructive role in the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity, he demanded that Moscow withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia immediately, since “their mission has nothing to do with maintaining peace.” Then the Georgian president criticized Kremlin policy toward Georgia. “Those regions,” he said, referring again to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, were annexed by our neighbor to the north, Russia, which supports their inclusion as part of it, intentionally mass issuance of Russian passports in violation of international law… The residents of the disputed regions live under the bandit occupation of Russia. I doubt that there is anyone in this auditorium who would tolerate that type of interference on their territory.”

Saakashvili's strong words were unprecedented. Russia had never been accused of “annexation” before, much less from the floor of the UN. Previously, Tbilisi had criticized Moscow through Georgian Defense Minister Irakly Okruashvili and the fact that such serious accusations are now coming from the head of state is an indication that Georgian-Russian relations have reached a new level of hostility. According to information obtained by Kommersant, the U.S. administration asked Saakashvili to tone down his statements. Nonetheless, such phrases as “bandit occupation” and “accomplices of the Russian peacekeepers” remained.

The Georgian president's boldness is obviously a byproduct of Tbilisi's recent diplomatic victory. Before Saakashvili's UN appearance the top foreign officials of the 28 member states of NATO decided to integrate Georgia more closely into their ranks and approved the transition to a phase of “intensive dialog” with the country.

Former Czech president Vaclav Havel coined the term “intensive dialog.” The phase implies closer integration into NATO and is essentially the penultimate step toward membership in the alliance. The Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary were the first country to complete the intensive dialog phase successfully and the phase has been a mandatory step for all entrants since 1997. Thus Georgia, which has always made its desire for membership clearly known, has received the signal that its wish may become reality. Georgia is the first, and so far only, CIS country that can boast of this close relationship with NATO. NATO's step is exceptional also because one of the conditions for accession to the organization is the lack of conflicts on the territory of the candidate state. Georgia has two conflict zones, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and armed conflicts breaks out in them from time to time. It seems Brussels has decided to close its eyes to that detail.

Georgian authorities are unabashedly happy and they are certain that nothing will interfere with their speedy progress in NATO. “We are close to NATO membership,” Saakashvili said yesterday as he congratulated Georgian judoists on their victory over their Russian opponents in a world championship finals match in Paris. “The Russian judo team has created certain problems for the Georgian sportsmen, just as Russia is creating problems for Georgia on its way to NATO. But Georgia is already in the semifinal in that question, and nothing will stop it from going to the final.”

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