Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed friendship treaties with Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Wednesday and promised them the backing of Russia's armed forces.
Medvedev may have further increased tensions by signing the treaties
The treaties are an attempt to formalize military, diplomatic and economic co-operation between Moscow and the separatist regions, which Russia recognized as independent states after its brief war with Georgia last month.
Medvedev signed the treaties with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity and Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Only Nicaragua has followed Moscow's lead and recognized the enclaves as independent.
The deals were signed in the face of widespread global condemnation of Russia's incursion into Georgia. Russia has been accused of neo-imperialism by critics in the West in the midst of the tensest period in Russia-West relations since the Cold War.
In a speech after the signing ceremony in the Kremlin, Medvedev said Russia was committed to defending Abkhazia and South Ossetia from any Georgian attempts to reclaim the two enclaves.
Georgia has insisted the two regions be returned to Tbilisi's control.
Separatists' borders to be guarded
Russia said its troops will defend the breakaway enclaves from Georgia
Under the friendship treaties, Russian troops are to patrol the Georgian borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia jointly with separatist troops.
"The defense of state borders ... will be carried out jointly by the signing parties in the interests of each other's security and of peace and stability in the South Caucasus region," read the text of the pacts.
Russia is also set to unify its energy, transport and telecommunications networks with the rebel provinces.
"The documents we have signed envisage that our countries will jointly undertake the necessary measures for counteracting threats to peace ... and opposing acts of aggression," Medvedev said. "We will show each other all necessary support, including military support.
"A repeat of the Georgian aggression ... would lead to a catastrophe on a regional scale, so no one should be in doubt that we will not allow new military adventures. No one should have any illusions."
EU may resume talks with Russia
EC President Jose Manuel Barroso says the EU may reopen cooperation talks with Russia
Just hours after the signing of the treaties, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the European Union may resume talks on a cooperation agreement with Russia, even if Moscow maintains a military presence in Georgia’s separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
On Sept. 1, EU leaders attending an emergency summit in Brussels agreed to postpone talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia until Russian troops "have withdrawn to the positions held prior to Aug. 7."
"The decision of the European Council was not to go on with the talks on a new agreement with Russia before Russian troops withdraw from their positions inside Georgia, with the exception of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, because they were already there," Barroso said after a meeting in Brussels with Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas.
He said the EU preferred to maintain dialogue with Russia while at the same time expressing strong condemnation for its role in the conflict and its subsequent decision to recognize the two Georgian regions as independent states.
"If the Russians respect their commitments, we can of course discuss the future of our relationship. That was the decision unanimously taken by member states on September 1," Barroso said.
German diplomat heads EU mission to Georgia
German diplomat Hansjoerg Haber will head the EU mission to Georgia
Meanwhile, the EU on Wednesday named German diplomat Hansjoerg Haber to head its observer mission in Georgia, the bloc said in a statement.
Haber, 55, is currently Germany's ambassador to Beirut and has been envoy to Moscow and Ankara. He will take charge of some 200 European monitors who are expected to be deployed in Georgia by Oct. 1.
Once on the ground, the EU mission will enable Russian peacekeepers to withdraw within 10 days from buffer zones near the two rebel regions.
Haber "will have a crucial role in putting together and launching the mission as a key part of the EU's efforts to address the crisis in Georgia and enhance stability in the region," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.
"His range of skills and experience in diplomacy and crisis management will be assets for the mission," Solana added in a statement. "He has my full trust and support and I look forward to working with him."