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Russia Rejects Western Criticism But Commits to G8, WTO

Russia rejected the criticism of fellow G8 members as biased, saying it was orchestrated to justify Georgian "aggression." But Moscow also said it aimed to keep its spot among the world's top industrialized nations.

G8 logo

Russia hosted the G8 conference just two years ago

G7 foreign ministers this week condemned the recognition of Georgia's separatist regions as a violation of the former Soviet state's sovereignty.

"The claim alleging that Russia's decision questions its commitments to peace and security in the Caucasus does not stand up to examination," the Russian foreign ministry said Friday, Aug. 29, in a statement posted on its Web site.

The statement reiterated Moscow's grievance that its position in the conflict has been ignored by the international community and western media.

Russia has thrown more punches at the West since being ostracized by the international community over its military foray into Georgia.

As tempers flared, Russia's powerful ex-president Vladimir Putin accused the United States of plotting the conflict to sweeten political campaign battles at home.

He said Russia's continued cooperation on trade and security issues were in jeopardy.

But the foreign ministry statement Friday also struck a compromising note, saying it was "ready for open and sincere exchanges."

"Russia confirms its disposition to constructive interaction within the framework of the G8 group," the ministry's statement said.

The Group of Eight, besides Russia, includes the G7 group of the world's leading industrial nations: the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada.

Warning from the US

Last week, the United States warned that Russia's involvement in the G8 and its bid to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was at risk because of its military operations in Georgia.

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez

Gutierrez said the ball was now in Russia's court

US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez told Germany's Spiegel magazine that Russia was "maneuvering itself into an extremely difficult situation."

"The President has made it clear several times: Until now, America was Russia's advocate when it came to integrating the country into the global community," Gutierrez told the magazine. "We included Russia in the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialised nations. We welcomed and pushed forward Russia's desire to join the World Trade Organisation. That is all at risk now," Gutierrez said.

US President George W. Bush said earlier this month the fighting in South Ossetia was hurting Russia's efforts to join modern global economic and security institutions.

Gutierrez had previously said Russia still had work to do before it was ready to join the WTO, but played down any connection between its military action in Georgia and its 15-year-old membership bid.

Georgia was already blocking formal talks on Russian accession to the world trade body because of Moscow's support for the country's separatist regions.

Under WTO rules a candidate country must reach agreement with all 153 members, represented by a working party which any existing member can join, as well as agree to separate bilateral deals with any member that seeks them.

Russia, the world's 10th largest economy, is by far the biggest country still outside the WTO.

When asked whether Russia should be excluded from the G8 and barred from the WTO, Gutierrez said: "In this crisis situation we can't start taking options off the table... The Russian government now needs to think about what its interests are."

Putin: Russia doesn't need the WTO

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia saw no advantages to WTO membership and should freeze some commitments made during entry talks in a sign Moscow was pulling further away from the West after its war in Georgia.

Putin, quoted by Russian news agencies during a government meeting, said Russia's economy would incur a heavy burden in meeting World Trade Organisation membership requirements and that some of these demands were against the country's interests.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

Putin said Russia saw no advantage of having WTO membership

"We propose continuing negotiations within the framework of the working group on WTO accession, but informing our partners of the need to exit some agreements which currently oppose the interests of the Russian Federation," Putin said. "We don't feel or see any advantages from membership, if they exist at all. But we are carrying the burden," he said. Agriculture was particularly affected, Putin added.

Analysts say excluding Russia from the WTO and G8 would have little impact on Moscow's current course.

"A country that was emboldened to roll over Georgia and rip off its territory is not going to get frightened by the WTO or the G8. They are past that now," Janusz Bugajski of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank told Reuters news agency.

Saakashvili: Russia has destroyed European order

Meanwhile, Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili told German public radio on Friday that Russia's actions in Georgia had destroyed the order in Europe established after World War II.

Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili is seen as he records a nationwide TV address in the Georgian capital Tbilisi,

Saakashvili says the post-WWII order is in tatters

Saakashvili warned that Russia would be emboldened by its military success. "They are not going to stop here," he said in an interview with German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "What Russia has done undermines and destroys the whole post-Cold War, post-Second World War European order."

It was the first time since then that a European power had sought to annex territory in a neighboring country.

Russia had seen Georgia as vulnerable, as it was not under the shield of NATO, Saakashvili said, in a clear appeal for his country to be allowed to join the Western military alliance.

Georgia would not willingly have taken on a nuclear power with a population of 146 million, he said.

Saakashvili also called for an international peacekeeping force to be sent to Georgia and appealed to the European Union to assist with reconstruction.

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