Moscow warns against Georgia's NATO entry

Updated: 2008-03-21 07:26

The Russian parliament is expected to warn this week that if Georgia joins NATO, Moscow could recognize the independence of two breakaway republics.

"It will be necessary to take all measures to protect the Russian citizens living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and investigate the possibility of speeding up the process of sovereignty ... up to recognizing their independence," according to a statement that the lower house of parliament is all but certain to adopt today.

Most of the residents in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two separatist regions in Georgia, have Russian passports.

The statement does not specify other measures, but they presumably could include increasing the presence of Russian troops in both regions. Russian forces have been part of peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the republics broke away from Georgian central government control in wars in the 1990s.

Georgia is pushing to be placed on track for NATO membership at the alliance summit in early April in Bucharest, Romania. US President George W. Bush strongly supports the move, but some other alliance members are expected to resist due largely to concerns about angering Russia.

The statement draft also calls on Russia to consider opening unspecified missions in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Trans-Dniester, a separatist region of Moldova. It was not clear if these would be formal diplomatic missions whose presence would constitute recognition of the regions' separatist governments.

Russia does not currently recognize any of the separatist governments, but has developed close relations with them that many critics regard as de-facto recognition.

Agencies

(China Daily 03/21/2008 page12)