Georgia’s NATO Entry ‘Impossible’ Within Old Borders, Says Russia Envoy

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti)–Georgia’s entry to NATO is impossible as long as its new borders have not been defined, the Russian envoy to NATO said on Friday dismissing U.S. pledges on the ex-Soviet state’s ambition.

“If a decision on Georgia’s accession to NATO is made now, the alliance will have to admit what was left of Georgia thanks to [President Mikheil] Saakashvili,” Dmitry Rogozin told Ekho Moskvy radio station referring to last summer’s war over Georgia’s breakaway region. “It is absurd.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said during his visit to Georgia last week that Washington fully supported a “united” Georgia, but added its leaders must do “much more” to strengthen democracy.

“We understand that Georgia aspires to join NATO. We fully support that aspiration and… we will work to continue to help you meet the standards of NATO membership,” he said.

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war after Tbilisi attacked South Ossetia to restore control of the territory. Russia, which had peacekeepers in the region, repelled the attack and later recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway republic, as independent states. Rogozin said Georgia’s new borders needed to be internationally recognized before it could join the Western military alliance.

“Georgia might join NATO eventually, if NATO still exists by that time,” the outspoken diplomat said.

Rogozin highlighted the danger of ongoing arms supplies and military aid to Georgia by other countries. “Georgia’s ongoing militarization is dangerous as we know what it leads to,” he said.

He reminded that Russia would introduce sanctions against foreign firms that continue to provide military equipment to Georgia.

Russia has banned the exports of military products and dual-purpose technology to Georgia after the armed conflict. Under a presidential decree, effective through December 2011, Moscow is to restrict military cooperation with countries providing Georgia with weapons.

“If it is is not important where, in the Arctic or in America – supplies offensive weapons, it will undoubtedly fall under the influence of
this decree,” Rogozin said.

Commenting on the envoy’s statement, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle said later on Friday that Washington would continue military cooperation with Georgia, but it did not include heavy weapon supplies.

Georgia’s ally, the U.S. has trained and equipped its military and provided financial aid. Moscow has also slammed Ukraine for arms supplies to Georgia. But a senior military official in Ukraine said early this month that the country would continue to fulfill contracts on weapons deliveries to Georgia until a UN Security Council ban. Ukraine supplies Georgia with air defense systems, radars, helicopters, armored personnel vehicles, and a variety of small arms.

The official dismissed allegations that Ukraine had delivered arms to Georgia illegally and free of charge during and after the conflict on orders from President Viktor Yushchenko.

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