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NATO on Georgia

DW staff (ot)September 12, 2008

Speaking in Moscow, Russian President Medvedev likened the Georgian military action to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His words came as NATO diplomats discussed the recent events in the Caucasus.

Medvedev portrait
Medvedev's statements are getting more inflammatoryImage: AP

Looking back over the month since war broke out in the disputed Georgian province of South Ossetia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a group of Russia experts that "the world has changed."

"Almost immediately after these events it occurred to me that for Russia, August 8, 2008 was almost like September 11, 2001 in the United States," said Medvedev at the meeting in Moscow.

Ongoing war of words

On August 8, Russian troops rolled into Georgian territory in order to force back Georgian troops who were trying to regain control of the breakaway province.

The president's comments came just one day after the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US. They have added to the barrage of words between Russian and western officials over the Georgia conflict.

Medvedev added that NATO membership for Georgia would be unjust, humiliating and intolerable to Moscow. Furthermore, he said Russia would have invaded Georgia even if it was a member of NATO.

NATO debates its options

"NATO won't become stronger this way, global tensions won't be reduced. What if Georgia had a NATO membership action plan? I would not wait for a second in making the decision I made at that time," Medvedev said.

"What would the consequences be? They could be much worse," he added.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
NATO's Scheffer tries to reassure membersImage: AP

Among NATO countries that have become increasingly concerned over the Russian incursion into Georgia are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- all former Soviet satellites.

"Nobody should doubt that this alliance ... will do what is necessary," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told journalists in the Latvian capital Riga after talks with Latvian President Valdis Zatlers and the three Baltic foreign ministers.

But Scheffer reiterated that the 26-nation military alliance did not consider Russia a threat to its members, including the Baltics.

Also on Friday, Sept. 12, the Chiefs of Staff from NATO's 26 member countries met in Sofia, Bulgaria to discuss how the alliance should address defense issues in the wake of the Georgian conflict.

"We have to prepare the Alliance to meet the security challenges of the future," said Italy's Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, the new chairman of NATO's Military Committee.

"What happened in the last few weeks is a reminder how security is always changing," he added.

One issue that seems to be off the agenda for NATO officials is the possible membership fo Georgia in the Alliance.

NATO officials to visit Georgia

The North Atlantic Council, which groups ambassadors from all 26 NATO members, plans a two-day trip starting Monday, Sept. 15, that includes a stop in Gori, a strategic town shelled by Russian forces during last month's fighting between the two countries.

Georgian city of Gori
The Georgian city of Gori saw a lot of fightingImage: AP

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the diplomats would meet with President Mikheil Saakashvili's government, the opposition and non-governmental groups.

"We'll pay a visit to Gori to show support for Georgia after what we've seen from the Russian side," Scheffer told reporters in Riga.

Russia this week urged the council to put off its trip, which NATO officials say has been planned for some time.

"This visit is inappropriate and we ask for it to be postponed," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, as saying.