For months now, the Kremlin has been providing huge quanties of assault rifles and attack planes to Venezuela, and negotiating to provide even larger quantities, as if Russia could act with impunity, poking its finger in the eye of the United States, the world's most powerful country, by giving direct military support to one of its most hated enemies without retribution. But now, the worm has turned. Suddenly, Russia finds itself locked in as dispute with Georgia, and, lo and behold, finds that weapons are flowing to Georgia against its wishes. Only now, when it is too late, do Russians see the consequences of their crazily provocative behavior. The Associated Press reports:
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Friday accused Eastern European members of NATO of illegally supplying Soviet-made arms to Georgia. "These NATO members are violating international practice," Ivanov said after talks with NATO ministers. "This is a form of piracy."
He declined to name specific nations, but said they were from the "younger generation of NATO members" -- a reference to the 10 former communist nations that defied Russian opposition to join the Western alliance after the end of the Cold War.
Ivanov held tense talks with the NATO allies, who have irritated Moscow by agreeing to deepen ties with Georgia, a country Ivanov has denounced as a "bandit" state.He told reporters that Georgia's arrest of Russian soldiers Wednesday was an attempt to force his country's troops out of the country so the Georgian authorities could pursue a "military solution" to its conflicts with two pro-Russian breakaway provinces.NATO appealed to both countries to defuse the growing crisis over the arrested soldiers. "On my behalf, there was a call for moderation and de-escalation, and that goes for both parties," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said. He said NATO was contacting the Georgian government to pass on the message.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said allied ministers had urged calm in their meeting with Ivanov. "The thread of those discussions clearly was for there to be calm, and for those tensions to be eased down in a peaceful way," he told reporters. Rumsfeld stressed, however, that Georgia was free to seek NATO membership regardless of Russian concerns. "NATO membership really is a decision for individual countries, not for countries other than the individual country." Ivanov said Eastern European nations were providing arms to Georgia in violation of Soviet-era guarantees that they would not be sold on to other countries. New NATO members denied they had broken any rules.
"Bulgaria has been complying with European Union rules of conduct and, moreover, there are no sanctions in force against Georgia," Bulgarian Defense Minister Veselin Bliznakov told national radio from Portoroz. "As to the programs for modernization of Georgia's army and police force, we think they ... contribute to the efforts for Georgia's stabilization."