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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Annals of Cold War II: NATO Reaches Out to Georgia

Reuters reports that the U.S. has fired off another volley in the escalating cold war between itself and Russia, pushing NATO to reach out to Georgia even as Russia seeks to undermine the Georgian president with a failed coup d'etat.

NATO countries have agreed to offer ex-Soviet Georgia talks on closer ties with the Western alliance, NATO sources said on Monday, a move likely to anger Russia.

"It's been agreed," an alliance source said of an agreement between ambassadors representing NATO's 26 members to open a so-called "intensified dialogue" with Georgia.

The move is to be rubber-stamped by NATO foreign ministers meeting in New York on Thursday. The talks are a first step toward membership of NATO but do not make entry automatic.

The United States has lobbied for closer ties with Georgia, but European allies have cited concerns over its disputes with Moscow concerning two rebel regions backed by Russia.
Some questioned whether NATO's borders should extend to the south Caucasus and whether Georgia could be considered European.

"We made it clear (to Georgia) that with this step comes greater responsibility. It mustn't ruin everything with a crisis now," said an alliance source who declined to identified.

Georgia's dispute with the separatist entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are one of the so-called "frozen conflicts" of the former Soviet Union which have become the front line of Russia's battle against Western influence in its backyard.

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