Russia slams NATO exercise in Georgia

Yerevan (Russia), April 16 (Inditop) Russia Thursday criticised NATO’s planned military exercise in Georgia, saying it could give the Georgian regime a sense of impunity and raise tensions in the Caucasus region.

“I hope that NATO countries, in planning future interaction with Georgia within the partnership for peace programme, will avoid steps that could nudge the Georgian regime into a feeling of permissiveness and impunity,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

NATO announced Wednesday that an exercise involving 19 member states would take place from May 6 till June 1. Georgia itself has applied to become a member of NATO.

“With regard to Georgia’s regime, a demonstration of NATO’s participation (in the exercises) will not send the right signal by those who honestly want to achieve stability in the Caucasus,” he said.

The minister said that countries should understand that in view of the August 2008 conflict, which began with Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia, supplying arms to Georgia poses a severe danger.

He said that NATO countries have ignored Russia’s warnings in recent years in continually supplying offensive weapons to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s regime.

NATO Press Secretary Robert Pshel told RIA Novosti that during the exercises “no one will be using weapons or tanks”.

The drills are aimed at improving interoperability between NATO and partner countries, within the framework of Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative programmes.

The exercises are “not purely NATO”, but are partner exercises within the framework of the Partnership for Peace programme, Pshel said. “They are open to all of NATO’s partner countries, including Russia.”

Russia’s NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, earlier said the country had asked NATO’s leadership not to hold the exercises.

“We sent an official note to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer proposing that the NATO military exercises in Georgia, planned for the near future, be postponed or cancelled,” he said.