AFP – “US scraps war games with Russia, mulls other responses”

US scraps war games with Russia, mulls other responses

AFP | August 13, 2008

The United States has cancelled upcoming joint military exercises with Russia, its first concrete response to the armed conflict in Georgia, as officials consider broader reprisals following Moscow aggression.

“In the wake of this conflict, there is no way that we can proceed with this joint exercise at this time,” said a senior US defense official on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The August 15-23 FRUKUS exercises “have been scrapped,” the official said.

The exercises were to involve warships from Russia, France, Britain and the US in the Sea of Japan, as well as an onshore component in the Russian port of Vladivostok. It was to have been the latest in a series of joint war games that began in 1988.

The announcement came as top US officials studied a range of responses to Russia’s “disproportionate” attacks on Georgia, after demanding Moscow make good on its promise to halt the military offensive.

“The Russians need to stop their military operations, as they have apparently said that they will, but those military operations really do, now, need to stop because calm needs to be restored,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Rice, however, was vague on exactly what action the US could take if Russia did not keep its word.

“I can assure you that Russia’s international reputation and what role Russia can play in the international community is very much at stake here,” Rice told ABC television.

Other US officials raised questions about Russia’s ongoing efforts to join the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as its membership in the Group of Eight most industrialized nations.

“Russia has much more to lose than the Soviet Union had to lose in 1968,” one of the officials briefing reporters said in reference to the of the then Czechoslovakia.

“Russia has one foot in integration into the international economy and community of states and one foot that is not quite in.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has outlined a series of ambitious political and economic goals, the official said, adding that in order to achieve these, “Russia is going to have to assure its integration into the WTO and the OECD and the G8 and institutions like that.”

“Russia now has a lot to do” to accomplish that, the official said.

Moscow’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin told CNN that the US also stood to lose some influence on the international scene if it riled Russia.

“We have equal interest… in mutual cooperation,” he said. But if some people in the United States try “to undermine our relations, to curtail our relations… we might as well let the United States deal on its own with some of the issues,” presumably such as the Iranian nuclear issue.

Churkin later suggested in an interview Wednesday with Russia’s NTV television channel that Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia was carried out with Washington’s approval.

“It is hard to imagine that (Georgian President Mikheil) Saakashvili embarked on this risky venture without some sort of approval from the side of the United States,” said Churkin.

President George W. Bush on Monday warned Moscow to end the war in Georgia, saying a “dramatic and brutal escalation” of the bloody fighting could cripple Moscow’s ties to the West.

“Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century,” Bush said at the White House.

Democratic and Republican leaders of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday issued a joint statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms the recent Russian invasion” of Georgia, and telling Moscow it “has a responsibility to follow through (its promise to halt the attacks) and remove Russian troops from the country.”

The conflict has also made it into the US presidential race.

Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have both issued statements critical of Russia’s role in the conflict with Georgia. While campaigning in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, McCain seized on the issue, attacking Russia’s “aggression” and its alleged expansionist designs on neighboring nations that lean to the West.

Medvedev on Tuesday ordered a halt to Moscow’s military onslaught against Georgia, but the Tbilisi government reported new attacks later in the day and there was a wary international response.

The two sides agreed to a peace plan brokered by France after Moscow ordered a halt to its attacks, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in Tbilisi.

The six-point plan, which obliges the parties to halt fighting, will be reviewed by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels Wednesday, Sarkozy said.

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 10:32 PM  Leave a Comment  

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