Medvedev seeks support from China, allies on Georgia
Medvedev meets his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao today as he seeks to muster support from Asian allies for Russia`s recognition of Georgia`s breakaway regions, according to Bloomberg.
Medvedev will discuss ``key international issues`` with Hu and other leaders from the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, a Kremlin official said today by phone.
Russia`s decision to unilaterally recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia yesterday drew condemnation from world leaders, with President George W. Bush asking Medvedev to ``reconsider this irresponsible decision.`` It would be ``logical`` for Medvedev to discuss the issue during two days of meetings with colleagues from Asia, the Kremlin official said.
``Russia`s main aim is to get support from the organization for its military action and approval in one form or another for recognizing South Ossetian independence,`` said Yevgeny Volk, an analyst in Moscow for the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. ``It is clear that Russia is using it as a counterweight to the West in the conflict and its recognition of South Ossetia.``
While Russia would seek to win a formal recognition from members of the group, Volk said such a decision for countries like China and India, which have separatist regions of their own, would amount to ``chopping the branch they sit on.``
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are the group`s other permanent members. The meeting in Dushanbe will discuss terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan, the Kremlin press service said.
Medvedev called his decision on the breakaway regions an ``obvious`` move to protect his country`s borders. Russia`s acceptance of the independence of the pro-Moscow autonomous regions, years after they first requested recognition, followed its military drubbing of Georgia this month after leaders in Tbilisi tried to retake South Ossetia by force.
By recognizing the regions, Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are engaging in tit-for-tat gamesmanship with the West over Kosovo`s February declaration of independence, which was backed by the U.S. and much of Europe and opposed by Russia as an illegal affront to Serbia, its ally. Georgia is a pro-West democracy coveted by the U.S. and Europe because it controls a Caspian Sea oil pipeline that bypasses Russia.
The Georgian situation is a ``special case`` that can`t be compared to Kosovo, Medvedev told the BBC, in one of a series of interviews with foreign media outlets. In an article published in the Financial Times, he made a link between his decision and the West`s recognition of Kosovo`s independence.
``In international relations, you cannot have one rule for some and another rule for others,`` he wrote.
Top U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, conferred among themselves yesterday and with allies on options for a response, according to the State Department. The Group of Seven industrialized nations is considering a statement on the crisis, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
At the United Nations, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin rebuffed U.S. assertions that his government was violating UN resolutions.
Georgia`s ``use of force against South Ossetia completely dashed all those resolutions and created a new reality,`` Churkin told reporters. Russia intends to open diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and doesn`t plan on annexing them, he said.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a U.S. ally, said the declaration had ``no legal force`` and renewed his call for his country`s ``speedy`` entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military alliance, a move Russia has called a threat to its security.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia fought inconclusive independence wars against Georgia in the early 1990s, after which they became autonomous protectorates of Russia, which stationed peacekeepers in both regions.
South Ossetia, about half the size of Puerto Rico, has a population of about 70,000. Russian officials say 2,100 civilians died in recent fighting in the region, which is connected to Russia`s North Ossetia region via a tunnel through the Caucasus Mountains.
Abkhazia, slightly larger than the U.S. state of Delaware, has about 200,000 people. Georgia says about 250,000 ethnic Georgians fled a war there in the early 1990s and haven`t been allowed to return.
The war and its aftermath is a new source of disagreement between the U.S. and Russia, which have clashed over NATO`s planned expansion eastward and a U.S. effort to install a missile-defense shield in former Soviet bloc countries Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as Kosovo.
Saying he didn`t want another ``Cold War,`` Medvedev told France`s TF1 television he wasn`t ready to cede ground.
``The ball is in the Europeans` court, and if they want a worsening of relations, they`ll get it,`` he said. ``But if they want to maintain strategic relations, which is absolutely in the interests of Russia and Europe, then in my view everything will be fine.``
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, speaking on France 2 television, said ``We fear a war and we don`t want one.``
Russia and Georgia have had tense relations since 2003, when Saakashvili came to power in the non-violent ``Rose Revolution,`` steering his country closer to the West. NATO announced in April that Georgia and Ukraine, another former Soviet Republic, will eventually join the alliance without giving a time frame.
A European Union-brokered Aug. 16 cease-fire that ended fighting called for Georgia`s forces to return to their bases and for Russian troops to withdraw to their location before the conflict began.