NATO War Games Begin in Georgia
A series of NATO military exercises has begun in Georgia, amid angry condemnation from Russia.
Soldiers from 18 countries are taking part in the drills at a Georgian army base close to the capital, Tbilisi.
Russia, which fought a war against Georgia last year, has condemned the exercises, which President Dmitry Medvedev called “an overt provocation”.
Relations between Nato and Russia were supposed to have been on the mend after last year’s war in Georgia, but have now taken a dramatic turn for the worse, the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow says.
Russia said on Wednesday that it was expelling two Canadian diplomats working for Nato’s Moscow office in response to what it terms an “unfriendly act” by the military alliance.
Last week Nato expelled two Russian envoys from its headquarters in Brussels, reportedly due to spying. >>>
“Why is NATO playing war games in Georgia?”
We do not care about the field exercises of NATO in Georgia they could be watched over from satellites, says independent political analyst Vladimir Kozin. (4:33):
The NATO exercises have also increased tension between Russia and Nato, after ties were strained following last year’s Russia-Georgia war.
In a further sign of souring relations, Russia on Wednesday announced the expulsion of two Canadian Nato envoys in Moscow.
The Russian foreign ministry said the pair were expelled “in response to an unfriendly act by Nato against Russian envoys to NATO”.
The move follows NATO’s expulsion of two Russian envoys at the bloc’s headquarters in Brussels on suspicion of spying, a charge Moscow denies.
In a statement, NATO said: “The Russian measure is very unfortunate and counterproductive to our efforts to restore our dialogue and co-operation with Russia.
“Thus Nato very much regrets the Russian action and does not consider there to be any justification for it.”
Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has insisted that Moscow wants good relations with Nato despite the expulsions.
“We were forced to react. Excuse me, but those are the rules … and our Nato colleagues, at least those who initiated the expulsion of our diplomats, couldn’t have expected anything less from us,” he said.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to Nato, was highly critical of the military alliance in an interview with Russian newspaper Izvestia.
“This organisation is becoming more and more unpredictable … The alliance can’t seem to behave in a respectable, stable and decent way,” he said.
Nato, which invited many non-member countries to take part in the games, has said the exercises pose no threat to Russia.
They are being seen as a gesture of solidarity with Georgia, which aims to become a member of the military alliance – a move also opposed by Russia. >>>
- What’s NATO for Again? (4 May 09)
- Russia Threatens Action on West/U.S. Backed War Games in Georgia (17 Apr 09)
- Chomsky’s Lectern: NATO, Af-Pak-etnam, and Palestine-Israel (3 Apr 09)