White House treads care­fully on cut­ting ties with Moscow

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

Global ef­fect

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has or­dered a re­view of U.S. de­fense co­op­er­a­tion pro­grams with Rus­sia but is not about to draw up “mind­less lists” of penal­ties that could alien­ate the Rus­sian peo­ple while leav­ing Moscow’s troops in Ge­or­gia, U.S. of­fi­cials said Sept. 2.

Daniel Fried, as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for Euro­pean af­fairs, also called Rus­sia’s ac­cu­sa­tion that “for­eign navy ships” are de­liv­er­ing weapons to the for­mer Soviet repub­lic un­der the guise of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid “com­plete non­sense.”

“The first or­der of busi­ness should not be some sort of pu­n­ish­ment,” Mr. Fried said in an in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times. “Rus­sia has to de­cide how much it wants to iso­late it­self from the world. We don’t want to have a bad re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia. We’ve never wanted that.”

Some prom­i­nent U.S. po­lit­i­cal fig­ures, in­clud­ing pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee John McCain, have called for ex­pelling Rus­sia from the Group of Eight ma­jor in­dus­trial na­tions.

How­ever, af­ter Rus­sia sent troops into Ge­or­gia last month, Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice asked her ad­vis­ers to “think this through in a se­ri­ous way,” Mr. Fried re­called. “Don’t draw up mind­less lists. Think where we need to be at the end of this ad­min­is­tra­tion and the beginning of the next ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said Miss Rice told her staff.

The Euro­pean Union failed to reach an agree­ment Sept. 1 on im­pos­ing sanc­tions for Moscow’s in­va­sion of Ge­or­gia, but it sus­pended talks on a new part­ner­ship ac­cord with Rus­sia.

Mr. Fried, who flew to Brus­sels late Sept. 2 to con­sult with EU of­fi­cials on “next steps,” said, “We ap­plaud the EU’s in­ten­tion to send a siz­able mon­i­tor­ing force to Ge­or­gia. We hope they do it soon. We think get­ting more in­ter­na­tion­als in Ge­or­gia is im­por­tant.”

In an­other show of sup­port for the Tbil­isi gov­ern­ment, Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney left Wash­ing­ton on Sept. 2 for a visit to Ge­or­gia and other ner­vous Rus­sian neigh­bors, in­clud­ing Ukraine and Azer­bai­jan.

At the Pen­tagon, spokesman Bryan Whit­man said De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates had or­dered a re­view of mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with Rus­sia as part of a wider eval­u­a­tion of re­la­tions in re­sponse to the con­tin­ued pres­ence of Rus­sian troops in parts of Ge­or­gia.

“Clearly, Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Ge­or­gia give not just the United States, but the en­tire in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, cause for con­cern re­gard­ing the di­rec­tion that na­tion is go­ing,” Mr. Whit­man said.

The re­view, he said, en­com­passes the Pen­tagon’s De­fense Threat Re­duc­tion Agency (DTRA), a pro­gram to com­bat the pro­lif­er­a­tion of nu­clear, bi­o­log­i­cal, chem­i­cal and other weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

How­ever, the most prom­i­nent pro­gram ad­min­is­tered by the agency — known as Nunn-Lu­gar — will not be af­fected, said Mark Hayes, a spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lu­gar of In­di­ana, the se­nior Repub­li­can on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee.

Mr. Lu­gar and Sen. Sam Nunn, Ge­or­gia Demo­crat, were the prime ar­chi­tects of the pro­gram, which has pro­vided nearly $6 bil­lion since 1991 to sup­port the safe de­struc­tion of weapons and se­cu­rity for weapons fa­cil­i­ties in Rus­sia, Ukraine, Ge­or­gia and Cen­tral Asia.

“In the past, de­spite any ups and downs that the United States and Rus­sian have ex­pe­ri­enced at the top level, the Nunn-Lu­gar pro­gram has al­ways re­mained steady,” Mr. Hayes said.

New world or­der

Ge­or­gia sent troops into the en­clave of South Os­se­tia on Aug. 7 in an at­tempt to re­gain con­trol of the repub­lic, which had de­clared in­de­pen­dence from Ge­or­gia on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. Rus­sia re­tal­i­ated by send­ing troops into South Os­se­tia; an­other dis­puted en­clave, Abk­hazia; and Ge­or­gia. De­spite agree­ing to a cease-fire bro­kered by France last month, Rus­sian troops re­main in parts of Ge­or­gia.

Be­fore the Rus­sian in­cur­sion, Mr. Gates said, the United States thought it could have a “long-term strate­gic di­a­logue” with Rus­sia. But the in­va­sion has called into ques­tion the en­tire premise of U.S.-Rus­sia talks, he said, adding that ties could be neg­a­tively af­fected for years.

Mr. Whit­man said the Pen­tagon is putting on hold talks with Rus­sia on strate­gic nu­clear arms and mis­sile de­fenses, such as a plan to build a mis­sile de­fense in Poland and the Czech Repub­lic, which Rus­sia has threat­ened to counter through mil­i­tary means.

Other ac­tiv­i­ties sub­ject to re­view in­clude: Part­ner­ship for Peace ex­er­cises, sev­eral bi­lat­eral mil­i­tary ex­er­cises, sev­eral naval ex­er­cises and table­top ex­er­cises, in which par­tic­i­pants study strat­egy around a ta­ble or in a class­room.

The part­ner­ship pro­gram in­cluded re­cip­ro­cal ex­changes and of­fi­cer vis­its, plus oc­ca­sional Rus­sian mil­i­tary train­ing ex­er­cises in the United States that were funded by the In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Ed­u­ca­tion & Train­ing pro­gram, known as IMET, Mr. Whit­man said.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion also is putting off im­ple­men­ta­tion of an Agree­ment for Peace­ful Nu­clear Co­op­er­a­tion, or the so-called “123 Agree­ment,” which was ap­proved in May.

Bal­anc­ing act

Henry Sokol­ski, di­rec­tor of the pri­vate Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Pol­icy Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter, said the over­all re­view marks a ma­jor shift in the Pen­tagon’s view of Rus­sia.

“With Moscow’s in­va­sion of Ge­or­gia — a coun­try that sent 2,000 troops to help the U.S. in Iraq — Rus­sia trans­formed it­self from be­ing one of Amer­ica’s strate­gic part­ners to be­ing one of a num­ber of Amer­ica’s strate­gic com­peti­tors,” Mr. Sokol­ski said in an in­ter­view.

Cliff Kupchan, a Rus­sia spe­cial­ist at the Eura­sia Group, a con­sult­ing firm, said the United States was partly at fault for the cri­sis be­cause it sent “mixed sig­nals” to Ge­or­gian Pres­i­dent Mikhail Saakashvili be­fore the fight­ing.

“In pri­vate, we were urg­ing re­straint, but in pub­lic, peo­ple from both par­ties were egging him on. We as a na­tion got too close to him, and af­ter seven years of build­ing Rus­sian rage, Rus­sia came down on him,” Mr. Kupchan said.

Mr. Fried in­sisted that Wash­ing­ton’s warn­ing to Mr. Saakashvili against the of­fen­sive on the South Os­se­tian cap­i­tal, Tskhin­vali, was “un­am­bigu­ous and quite clear.”

A se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial said there should have been “a clear high­level warn­ing to the Rus­sians,” but the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion did not is­sue one be­cause it “didn’t think they would in­vade Ge­or­gia proper.”

Mr. Fried echoed other U.S. and Euro­pean calls on Moscow to fully re­spect a cease-fire and to pull all its troops out of Ge­or­gia, and said the West is strug­gling to fig­ure out how to “make clear that [the Rus­sians’] acts against Ge­or­gia and threats against other neigh­bors are un­ac­cept­able” without an­tag­o­niz­ing the Rus­sian peo­ple.

Rus­sian re­sponse

In Moscow, where he has met re­cently with se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cials, Dim­itri K. Simes, pres­i­dent of the Nixon Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton, said that Rus­sia might veto any new U.N. res­o­lu­tion against Iran and stop co­op­er­at­ing with the United States on Afghanistan if the West tries to pun­ish Rus­sia for its ac­tions.

Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Vladimir Putin was quoted as say­ing dur­ing a visit to Uzbek­istan on Sept. 2 that there will be an “an­swer” to the pres­ence of NATO ships in the Black Sea, al­though it “will be calm, without any sort of hys­te­ria.”

“We don’t un­der­stand what Amer­i­can ships are do­ing on the Ge­or­gian shores, but this is a ques­tion of taste, it’s a de­ci­sion by our Amer­i­can col­leagues,” Mr. Putin said, ac­cord­ing to Rus­sia’s In­ter­fax news agency. “The sec­ond ques­tion is why the hu­man­i­tar­ian aid is be­ing de­liv­ered on naval ves­sels armed with the new­est rocket sys­tems.”

Mr. Fried said the Rus­sians are “try­ing to dele­git­imize any mil­i­tary sup­port for Ge­or­gia — a coun­try that Rus­sia has at­tacked,” adding that U.S. “mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion” with Ge­or­gia will con­tinue “care­fully” and “re­spon­si­bly.”

The Ge­or­gian gov­ern­ment “made a mis­take” by at­tack­ing Tskhin­vali in early Au­gust, Mr. Fried said.

“The Ge­or­gian case is ba­si­cally, ‘Look, our peo­ple were at­tacked, our vil­lages were be­ing shelled, we’d been sub­jected to months of provo­ca­tions from the Rus­sians,’ and that’s ba­si­cally true. But that doesn’t mean that their de­ci­sion was a wise one,” he said.

Mr. Fried de­fended the U.S. pol­icy of “em­brac­ing Rus­sia” since the col­lapse of the Soviet Union, say­ing it was a “good strate­gic call” by three pres­i­dents: Ge­orge H.W. Bush, Bill Clin­ton and Ge­orge W. Bush.

“It’s not the fault of the West for reach­ing out to Rus­sia,” he said. “But it is Rus­sia that has made this so dif­fi­cult.”

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