Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NATO avoids harsh penalties

Georgians with their eyes covered sit atop a Russian armored personnel carrier while being detained by Russian troops Tuesday in the Black Sea port city of Poti, Georgia.

Georgians with their eyes covered sit atop a Russian armored personnel carrier while being detained by Russian troops Tuesday in the Black Sea port city of Poti, Georgia.

August 20, 2008

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— NATO declared Tuesday that there will be no "business as usual" with Moscow while Russian forces occupied large parts of Georgia, but it took no decisive action to enforce a demand for an immediate Russian withdrawal in line with a French-brokered cease-fire.

Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, mocked the outcome of an emergency meeting of the 26-nation alliance. "The mountain gave birth to a mouse," Rogozin told reporters.

In Georgia Tuesday, Russia continued to display its control over key locations and roads and despite repeated promises showed no clear signs of a withdrawal. "We have not seen any significant movement," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Russian forces briefly seized Georgia's main seaport of Poti and continued their grip on Gori, a city northwest of the capital of Tbilisi. In the Poti attack, about 100 heavily armed Russians arrived in six armored personnel carriers and seized at least two dozen Georgian soldiers standing guard. Five hours later, the Russians drove out of Poti in trucks with their captives blindfolded.

Russian forces also removed at least four U.S.-made Hummer military vehicles that port officials said were taken from an adjacent coast guard pier. White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the Russian government had indicated it would secure the U.S. equipment. "We certainly expect that the Russians would return any equipment that is U.S. equipment, and return it quickly, if, in fact, they do have it," he said.

The modest outcome of the emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers, which was called at U.S. request, reflected divisions within the alliance over responding to the Russian invasion.

Some European powers, such as Germany, have favored restraint, anxious not to aggravate the crisis and jeopardize their energy supplies from Russia. Former Soviet bloc governments have advocated a tougher stance, anxious to deter the Kremlin from believing that it can re-impose its influence over its former empire.

"There are different sensibilities on this. There are states who want this process to move faster," said Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado. "The alliance has to take a united firm position, but without being aggressive."

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