Bush plans to halt nuclear deal with Russia
It would send a message that Russia`s actions will not go unanswered
President George W. Bush is poised to punish Moscow for its invasion of Georgia by canceling a once-celebrated deal for civilian nuclear cooperation between the United States and Russia, according to The Associated Press.
With relations between the two nations in a nearly Cold War-like freeze over Russia`s actions against its neighbor last month, planning is under way at the White House for the largely symbolic move by Bush, according to administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Action could come quickly, as officials see no need to wait until Vice President Dick Cheney returns from his trip to three former Soviet republics.
Cheney, in Tbilisi yesterday, assured President Mikhail Saakashvili that the United States is "fully committed" to Georgia`s pursuit of NATO membership, an assurance likely to further anger a Kremlin bent on keeping the Western military alliance out of former Soviet territory. Cheney used some of the harshest rhetoric yet from Washington against Russia, condemning its invasion and occupation of Georgia as an "illegitimate, unilateral attempt" to forcibly change its tiny neighbor`s borders.
Cheney`s tour was through nations that have angered the Kremlin by pursuing integration with the West. On Wednesday, he visited Azerbaijan, a vital cog in U.S. attempts to establish an energy corridor that bypasses Russia. He flies to Ukraine next.
Withdrawing the nuclear agreement from Capitol Hill would have little actual impact, as the deal probably would not gain approval during Bush`s presidency. But taking the public step of pulling it would send a message that Russia`s actions in Georgia will not go unanswered.
A $1-billion economic recovery package for Georgia that Bush announced Wednesday does not include military aid. But U.S. officials have said it is likely that military assistance will be forthcoming to help Georgian forces rebuild. Moscow has greeted such talk with anger, already accusing the United States of instigating or even helping Georgia make its ill-fated incursion into South Ossetia.