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NATO-Russia relations are further damaged amid spy accusations and a Russian treaty with separatist regions.
President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday welcomed the presidents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia’s two separatist regions, and signed a treaty that gives Moscow control over the republics’ borders with Georgia.
The treaty essentially formalizes the presence of thousands of Russian troops who have lined the republics’ borders since the five-day war with Georgia in August, and allows Moscow to patrol the strategic waters off Abkhazia’s Black Sea coast.
The U.S. State Department said the treaty violated the terms of the cease-fire that ended the war.
Russia says it invaded Georgia to repel a military attack ordered by Tbilisi on South Ossetia. After the war, it recognized the independence of the two republics, but that move has been followed by no country except Nicaragua.
“The action contravenes Russia’s commitments under the Aug. 12 ceasefire,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement. He said the U.S. was expressing “serious concern” and that the move “violates Georgia's territorial integrity.”
So why all the fuss now?
Some analysts say the timing of the deal was meant to coincide with NATO exercises in Georgia due to start next week.
Russia has demanded NATO cancel the exercises. “The planned NATO exercises are provocative, no matter how hard our western partners try to persuade us of the opposite," Medvedev said Thursday after signing the border deal.
Russia views negatively any western inroads into what it sees as its backyard, and a central pillar of its foreign policy in recent years has been ensuring that Ukraine and Georgia, both of whom hope to join NATO, remain outside of the military alliance.
Sergei Markov, a deputy in the State Duma who is very close to the Kremlin, said relations with NATO would only improve if the military alliance undergoes a radical transformation.
“NATO has lost its mind, they want another Crimean war,” Markov said in a telephone interview. “We think we ended the Cold War and forewent communism for democracy. NATO thinks they won the Cold War and should relate to us as victors.”
“They suffer from an intense psychological complex of Russophobia,” he said.
While the U.S. and Russia work to “reset” relations, it looks like a similar path with NATO will be difficult to achieve, as Moscow continues to view the alliance in its historical anti-Soviet framework.
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