Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An 'Uncomfortable' Summit

From RFE/RL Newsline (November 28 2006):

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS NATO SUMMIT NEAR ST. PETERSBURG MIGHT BE ‘UNCOMFORTABLE’

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Moscow that the upcoming NATO Riga summit is not a matter of serious concern for Russia, the German weekly “Der Spiegel” reported on November 28. Ivanov added that “the Baltic countries are sovereign nations. They have the right to decide which military and political bloc they want to be a part of. Of course, some Russians feel uneasy about the fact that a NATO summit is taking place so close to St. Petersburg. But I take a more relaxed view. If NATO had staged a major military maneuver in Latvia, with tanks and aircraft, it would certainly have triggered concern within the Russian military. But that is not the case.” He nonetheless added that “the Baltic states…are small countries in a region that is especially free of conflict and tension, militarily speaking. We do not understand why NATO needs its own military infrastructure in this region. Does it intend to wage war against terrorism or influence operations in Afghanistan from there?” Ivanov also said that the closure of a U.S. military base in Khanabad was Uzbekistan’s own decision “because it suspected the government of the United States of trying to destabilize the situation in the country.” Ivanov argued that some people call “the forces active there fighters for human rights, while the Uzbek people themselves call them terrorists who are killing people. I am aware of the real state of affairs…not propaganda. I have read reports describing how these so-called fighters for human rights received instructions from abroad to kill people.” Asked about Russian sanctions against Georgia, Ivanov replied that “these are not sanctions. We no longer operate direct flights to Tbilisi because Georgian airlines owe us money. You were the ones who introduced us to the market economy in the 1990s. Now we are sticking to it and you come to us with accusations. We cannot accept the fact that Georgia continues to insult us. It is clear to us that the Georgian leadership is dragging NATO and the EU into its efforts to solve its internal problems.” On November 28, Britain’s “The Times” wrote to mark the opening of the Riga summit that “much of the corridor talk during this first NATO summit on former Soviet soil will be of the renewed threat from Russia. Moscow’s aggressive use of energy as a political weapon is the most obvious cause for concern…. NATO leaders will be asked to look at possible action to avert potential threats to energy sources by patrolling key shipping lines, or resupplying a victim of an energy suspension.” PM
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