Russia accuses US on Georgia
MOSCOW; Russia on Wednesday accused the United States of quietly rearming Georgia a year after Russian forces crushed the ex-Soviet state's US-backed military and warned it would respond accordingly.
"Delivery of weapons from the United States is continuing," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigori Karasin told journalists at a briefing ahead of the first anniversary of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.
"This is worrisome and will force us to take corresponding measures," Karasin said. He did not elaborate on what types of weapons were involved or on how Russia would respond.
His comments however marked one of Moscow's most pointed accusations that the United States, which recently reaffirmed a strategic commitment to Georgia, was stoking tensions in the volatile Caucasus region.
On a visit to Tbilisi on July 23, US Vice President Joe Biden admitted that Washington, which equipped and trained Georgian forces prior to the war last August, was working on "maintaining" the Georgian military.
He said however that the effort was confined to "planning, training, organization" -- and not the supply of weapons.
The following day, Russia's ambassador to NATO said Moscow would impose sanctions on US or any other foreign firms that sold arms to Georgia.
"No one can give us any guarantee there will be no new aggression from Georgia," Karasin said at the press conference Wednesday.
A top Russian general separately said Russia could "clearly see" that Georgia was rearming and trying to rebuild its armed forces "to previous levels and higher" than what it had prior to last year's war.
The general, Anatoly Nogovitsin, said this effort was "for the purpose of aggression" and was being supported by the United States and other Western countries at least financially and through "declarations" of support.
"This is being done not as openly as in the past ... but using a clandestine scheme," Nogovitsin said, adding: "Such supplies are still continuing."
The secretary of Georgia's national security council, Eka Tkeshelashvili, dismissed Russia's accusations that Georgia was rearming as a "ridiculous perception" concocted in Moscow to foster a "myth" of Georgian aggression.
The United States has long supported the goal of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to lead his country away from its centuries-old dominance by Moscow and toward membership in NATO and Western political institutions.
The Kremlin however has made clear -- most dramatically during the war in Georgia last year -- that it regards expanding NATO influence in ex-Soviet states near Russian borders as a major and direct security threat.
Russia and the West are in intensifying competition for influence in Georgia due to its vital location astride a geographical corridor that could be used to transport energy supplies from Central Asia directly to Western markets.
Late Tuesday, Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev discussed the situation in the Caucasus as the Georgia war anniversary approaches, with both men agreeing on the need to reduce tensions there, the White House said.
The Kremlin confirmed the conversation but injected a slightly different spin regarding its purpose.
"Both sides underscored the need to preserve a relationship of trust between the two presidents and their teams," the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile lauded the work of the EU monitoring mission in Georgia as a "stabilizing factor" in the area.
He said it would be "incorrect" and provocative however to include US personnel in the European mission.
Separately, Nogovitsin brushed off a report in The New York Times that two Russian nuclear attack submarines were recently patrolling near the east coast of the United States.
He did not confirm nor deny details of the patrols, but stated: "The fleet can't remain in port. This is a normal process."
He said Russia had similar data on movements of US strategic forces near Russian borders.