Rice condemns Russian threats toward Ukraine as `Unacceptable`
Rice said the U.S. will make sure Ukraine remains an independent nation
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Russian threats toward Ukraine are ``unacceptable`` and President Vladimir Putin`s government should know it can no longer intimidate former Soviet republics, according to Bloomberg,
The ``reprehensible rhetoric that is coming out of Moscow is unacceptable,`` Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington yesterday. Putin said the day before that Russia may aim missiles at Ukraine if it joins NATO and allows the U.S. to deploy parts of a missile defense system.
Russia`s rhetoric harms a relationship between the former Cold War foes that has ``some positive aspects,`` Rice said. She cited cooperation on North Korea and Iran and reducing the threat of global nuclear terrorism.
Putin wants to keep NATO from expanding further into former Soviet territory after the Baltic states joined the alliance in 2004, bringing it within 100 kilometers (60 miles) of Russia`s second-largest city, St. Petersburg. He also opposes U.S. plans to deploy anti-missile defense systems in eastern Europe, saying they are designed to neutralize Russia`s nuclear deterrent.
Russia`s relationship with its western neighbor has been tense since Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko won office in 2004 after defeating the Kremlin-backed candidate. Yushchenko wants to join the European Union and NATO as he seeks to loosen ties with Russia forged over the centuries the two states were part of one country.
Rice said the U.S. will make sure Ukraine remains an independent nation.
``We are absolutely devoted to the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine, and of other states that were once a part of the Soviet Union,`` Rice said. The Soviet Union ``is gone forever and I hope Russia understands that.``
Speaking after talks with Yushchenko at the Kremlin on Feb. 12, Putin said NATO membership was a decision for Ukraine, while adding that, if it were to join the Czech Republic and Poland in hosting U.S. missile-defense installations, Russia would respond.
``It`s terrible to say, terrible even to think about, that in response to such a potential deployment on Ukrainian territory, Russia -- and theoretically we can`t rule this out -- could aim its missile systems at Ukraine,`` he said.
Putin rejects President George W. Bush`s assertion the proposal to base missile interceptors in Poland and radar installations in the Czech Republic is aimed at defending Europe from possible missile strikes from Iran.
Putin, in a May 9 speech in Red Square marking the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, suggested U.S. foreign policy resembled that of Adolf Hitler`s Third Reich. Russia lost at least 20 million people in the war against Hitler`s Germany.
Rice, who also noted U.S. cooperation with Russia on the Middle East peace process, said that ``when it comes to the structure of post Cold War Europe,`` the rhetoric from Russian officials is extremely harsh.
Russia is moving to revive its Soviet military influence to counter the U.S., with a new intercontinental ballistic missile, upgrades to its air force and the development of its navy.
Putin ordered a ``permanent`` resumption of strategic bomber flights around the world in August.
A Russian Tu-95 long-range bomber flew over the USS Nimitz near Japan twice at 2,000 feet (600 meters) on Feb. 9, the Pentagon said this week.
Another Russian bomber entered Japanese airspace on the same day, the government in Tokyo said. It flew above the Izu peninsula southwest of Tokyo and more than 20 Japanese air force jets were sent to escort the aircraft away.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement it lodged a ``strong protest`` to the Russian embassy in Tokyo.
Yushchenko said yesterday Ukraine won`t accept NATO bases on its territory in the event it joins the alliance, Russian state-run news service RIA Novosti reported.
``If the Russian side is worried about military bases, then Ukraine will never go that route,`` he said in Moscow.