Archive for the ‘expansion’ Category

Russia Wants NATO, Europe To Ease Moscow’s Suspicions

November 30, 2008

Russia has reason to feel betrayed by the process of NATO expansion, begun in 1997. Seven years earlier, the Russians believe, American and German officials working on German reunification pledged not to take advantage of Moscow‘s weakness by extending NATO into Russia’s traditional backyard. By reneging on that promise, Western leaders have made Russians doubt their trustworthiness.

By Michael Mandelbaum | NEWSWEEK

To the Kremlin, the expansion process has also seemed to be based on dishonest premises. U.S. officials advertised it as a way of promoting democracy, of forcing ex-Soviet states to reform. But the democratic commitment of NATO’s first ex-communist entrants—Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic—was never in doubt. And if the Americans truly believed that NATO membership was the best way to guarantee free elections and constitutional rights, why didn’t they immediately offer it to the largest ex-communist country of them all, Russia itself? Instead, Moscow was told it would never be able to join.

NATO expansion taught Russia another lesson. The process went ahead because Moscow was too weak to stop it. This told the Russians that to have a say in European affairs, they needed to be able to assert themselves militarily. Last summer’s war in Georgia was one result.

Given this history, what should the West do now about Russia? We have no good options. In the wake of the war, some in the United States renewed the call to welcome Georgia into NATO. But NATO is a mutual-defense pact. Making Georgia a member would mean that we’d have to come to the country’s aid should fighting with Russia break out once more. This would require putting Western troops, tanks, aircraft and perhaps even nuclear weapons on Russia’s border—to which the Russians would respond with comparable forces. The U.S. military is already seriously overstretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet doing nothing would look like a retreat in the face of Russian aggression.

In the short term, the incoming U.S. president needs to think like a doctor: “First, do no harm.” This means deferring any offer of NATO membership to Georgia (and Ukraine, for that matter). Some may object that this will reward Russia for its belligerence. Perhaps, but the consequences of deferral are preferable to the costs of expansion—including a serious deterioration in relations with Moscow.

At the same time, the West should renew its security cooperation with Russia. NATO must eventually either include Russia or give….

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Lavrov: Russia Still Against NATO Expansion, Missile Defense

April 1, 2008

Voice of America
Russia’s foreign minister again has expressed opposition to NATO expansion and U.S. plans for a missile defense system in central Europe.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke to reporters in Moscow Thursday ahead of next month’s visit to Russia by U.S. President George Bush.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addresses the CIS (Commonwealth ...
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addresses the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Foreign Ministers meeting in Moscow, Friday, March 28, 2008. Lavrov stressed that efforts by Georgia’s pro-Western government to join NATO have added tension and attempts to resolve the Georgian-Abkhaz and the Georgian-South Ossetian conflicts through Georgian entry to NATO are dangerous and counterproductive.(AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

Lavrov said his country views proposals for NATO expansion as being out of touch with reality. He said the entire world faces common threats which must be handled in common.

Lavrov also stressed his country’s view that the best way to resolve disagreements over the planned U.S. missile defense system is for Washington to abandon it.

The United States has said Russia has nothing to fear from NATO expansion or the missile defense system, which it says is aimed at so-called rogue states such as Iran.

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet April 6 in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi. 

Leaders of the 26 NATO countries are expected to invite Albania, Croatia and possibly Macedonia into the alliance at next week’s summit in Bucharest. They will also consider initiating the membership process for Ukraine and Georgia.
The United States wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and control-radar in the Czech Republic.

Russia has strongly opposed the plan as a threat to its security. It has said the system could set off a new arms race.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

Bush Sticks to His Guns On NATO Expansion; Russia Peeved

April 1, 2008
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer

KIEV, Ukraine – President Bush on Tuesday vowed full support for Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations, saying Russia would have no veto over the ex-Soviet states’ membership bids.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice listens as U.S. President George W. Bush and Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko speak to reporters following their meeting at the Presidential Secretariat in Kiev, Ukraine April 1, 2008.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UKRAINE)

In Kiev ahead of a NATO summit, the president said he would work “as hard as I can” to overcome Moscow‘s objections and concerns from some in the trans-Atlantic military alliance about starting the admission process for the two nations.

“Your nation has made a bold decision and the United States strongly supports your request,” Bush told Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko two days before NATO leaders meet in Bucharest, Romania to decide on a so-called “membership action plan,” or MAP, for both Ukraine and Georgia.

“In Bucharest this week, I will continue to make America’s position clear: we support MAP for Ukraine and Georgia,” he said after talks with Yushchenko. “My stop here should be a clear signal to everybody that I mean what I say: It’s in our interest for Ukraine to join.”

A membership action plan outlines what a country needs to do to win an invitation for full NATO membership.

With nine former Soviet bloc countries already NATO members, Russia is opposed to Ukraine and Georgia even starting the process, fearing a further loss of influence in two more Soviet-era Warsaw Pact neighbors. A senior Russian diplomat warned Tuesday that Ukraine’s accession to NATO would cause a “deep crisis” in relations with Moscow.

Some NATO allies, notably France and Germany, are reluctant to give Ukraine and Georgia the precursor to membership, saying they are not ready. But they also fear upsetting already strained ties with Russia, a major supplier of energy to Europe.

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Departing Putin Seeks to Stop NATO Gains , Missile Defense

March 31, 2008
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer 

MOSCOW – This week’s NATO summit in Romania will be Vladimir Putin‘s last appearance at a top-level international forum before he steps down as Russian president, still pushing to halt NATO‘s expansion into the stomping grounds of the former Soviet Union.
Natalya Vitrenko, who heads an anti-American party, left, burns ... 
Natalya Vitrenko, who heads an anti-American party, left, burns a NATO flag while rallying in front of U.S. Embassy to protest U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit and Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO, in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, March 31, 2008.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Kremlin realizes it doesn’t have the power to force the West to reverse its recognition of Kosovo’s independence or persuade Washington to drop its plan to deploy missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic.

But Putin has had notable success in blocking NATO membership for its former Soviet neighbors — Ukraine and Georgia.

“Georgia’s accession into NATO will be seen here as an attempt to trigger a war in the Caucasus, and NATO membership for Ukraine will be interpreted as an effort to foment a conflict with Russia,” said Sergei Markov, a Russian parliament member with close links to the Kremlin.

Amid a litany of such threats from Moscow, some NATO members are reluctant to inflame tensions at the three-day summit that begins Wednesday in Bucharest.

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Bush facing resistance to NATO expansion

March 30, 2008
By DESMOND BUTLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Ahead of this week’s NATO summit, President Bush has told alliance members he wants to expand the organization to include three Balkan countries and put Ukraine and Georgia on track for membership.
Bush probably will get some of what he wants at the meetings Tuesday through Thursday in Bucharest, Romania. But with only nine months left in his term, Bush may find his ability diminished to persuade European leaders, just as it is with Congress. That is a reflection of the president’s low public approval ratings and the anticipation of a new administration that will set policy.

European leaders know the new president could shift course on NATO. For that reason, they may seek to put aside some decision, including commitments to Ukraine and Georgia, until after Bush leaves office in January.

“I think this NATO summit is basically the ‘Goodbye George’ summit,” said Daniel Hamilton, Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. “A lot of the energy is looking beyond the administration.”

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President Bush and  Russian President Vladimir Putin embrace ... 
President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin embrace following a media conference at the G8 summit site in St.Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, July 15, 2006. Bush is beginning his farewell tour on the world stage trailed by questions about how much clout he still wields. Unpopular abroad, as he is at home, Bush nevertheless has been a commanding presence among world leaders for the past seven years. Now, with fewer than 300 days left in his term, other presidents and prime ministers are looking beyond Bush to see who will occupy his chair a year from now. Bush will meet with Putin next week in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) 

Russia says NATO “playing with fire” on expansion

March 29, 2008
By Conor Sweeney and Oleg Shchedrov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia warned NATO on Friday against expansion into ex-Soviet neighbors Georgia and Ukraine ahead of a NATO summit next week that will discuss what Moscow sees as deep encroachment into its backyard.

File photo shows NATO members' national flags at the organisation's ...
File photo shows NATO members’ national flags at the organisation’s headquarters in Brussels. Russia’s envoy to NATO denied Friday that Moscow’s offer to help international forces in Afghanistan would depend on the alliance rejecting the membership plans of Georgia and Ukraine.(AFP/File/Olivier Morin)

In separate comments, Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov and a Kremlin spokesman said possible NATO membership for the two countries would have repercussions for any plans to improve Moscow’s ties with the Western military alliance.

Lavrov warned Georgia against using NATO membership as a tool to regain control over its rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away in the 1990s and enjoy Russian support.

“Concerning South Ossetia and Abkhazia, if Georgia intends to gain NATO support in order to solve these two conflicts by means of force, it’s a dangerous game,” Lavrov told journalists.

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Russia Denies Afghan Deal Tied to NATO Expansion

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Russia‘s envoy to NATO denied Friday that Moscow‘s offer to help international forces in Afghanistan would depend on the alliance rejecting the membership plans of Georgia and Ukraine.

Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin rejected reports that any deal could be done to allow equipment and troops from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to move across Russian territory.
Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, seen here in January ... 
Russia’s envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, seen here in January 2008, denied Friday that Moscow’s offer to help international forces in Afghanistan would depend on the alliance rejecting the membership plans of Georgia and Ukraine.(AFP/File/Alexander Nemenov)

Indeed he suggested that a transit arrangement was virtually finalised, and might be concluded in time for next week’s summit in Bucharest between Russian President Vladimir Putin and NATO leaders.

“There is no connection, no relation at all between the NATO decision on Ukraine or Georgia and the completion of the transit agreement, or of any arrangement to support ISAF in….

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Is Vietnam the next China?

March 11, 2008

The Nation
March 12, 2008

The answer is rather positive if you ask Phung Dinh Thuc, vice president of Petroviet-nam, who yesterday attended Gastech 2008, the global natural-gas exhibition and conference in Bangkok.

Thuc, whose country will host the next major regional natural-gas event in Hanoi in November, said while Vietnam was not on the scale of China, it certainly was a significant economy in Asia.

“Through the end of last year, Vietnam’s growth rate exceeded that of Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and even India, its closest rival.”

Thuc believes Vietnam can be the new Asian economic tiger, as evidenced by some key economic, financial and industrial indicators.

For instance, the country now produces and uses more cement than does France, its former colonial ruler, and the main index for Ho Chi Minh City’s stock market and smaller exchanges in Hanoi have nearly doubled this year.

Vietnam has also become the talk of investment bankers and international investors.

Thuc indicated there was also a large boom in the industrial sector, with many factories opening in Vietnam as a result of increased foreign direct investment.

These investments, which provide jobs, training and livelihoods for Vietnamese, have led to an increased demand for oil and gas to support the growth of new industries and improve local living conditions.

Thuc said the Asia-Pacific used more than 25 million barrels of oil and 400 billion cubic metres of natural gas per day last year, with demand in 2011 projected at 29 million barrels and 620 billion cubic metres, respectively.

Vietnam’s gross domestic product is projected to grow 8.2 per cent this year, unchanged from last year. For next year, 2010 and 2011, growth projections are 8.5-8.7 per cent per annum.

As a result, the country’s oil and liquid-gas output is projected to rise to 360,000-390,000 barrels per day by 2011, with consumption forecast to grow 4-6 per cent per annum.

As for natural gas, demand is forecast to rise from last year’s 7 billion cubic metres to 20 billion in 2011.

Thuc also said the Vietnamese government had committed itself to modernising the economy by launching several large infrastructure projects and converting state-owned enterprises into shareholder-owned companies.

In addition, it has improved stock-market regulations and reduced corruption.

Nophakhun Limsamarnphun

The Nation