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Euro-Russo Split Widens Part One

Belarus says no nuclear response planned to US missile shield
Minsk (AFP) Sept 8 - President Alexander Lukashenko of key Russian ally Belarus said Monday he did not plan to host nuclear weapons or other defence systems in answer to Washington's expanded missile defences in Europe. "I won't take a hawkish position and frighten the West that we will establish air defence systems in Belarus or even nuclear weapons. No one is talking about that today," Lukashenko told a group of Russian journalists in remarks broadcast on Belarussian radio. Lukashenko was responding to US plans to set up missile interceptors in Poland, which borders Belarus to the west, as part of an expanded missile defence shield that also involves the Czech Republic. Russia vehemently opposes the US plans and has warned it could point its nuclear missiles at the US facilities. Belarus has since the Soviet period been a close ally of Russia, forging a special relationship accord with Moscow, and has been dubbed by Washington Europe's "last dictatorship." Lately however Lukashenko has shown signs of wavering in his loyalty to Moscow and moving closer to the West. Lukashenko said Belarus could still respond in some way to the US missile defence plans and voiced indignation at increased reconnaissance into Belarussian territory from NATO member Poland. He did not specify what measures Belarus might be considering. "The border is stuffed with monitoring and reconnaissance systems. Today NATO planes impudently monitor the border territory, flying over the territory of the union state," Lukashenko said. "We have practically a single air defence system. We can react. This shouldn't be a secret.... But we will react proportionally," Lukashenko said.
by Nikita Petrov
Moscow (UPI) Sep 8, 2008
Russia's Defense Ministry has officially informed NATO headquarters in Brussels of its decision to suspend all military cooperation with its counterparts in the alliance.

The move came after similar notices were received by the defense ministries of Norway, Estonia and Latvia.

This means that all joint events between the Russian army and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries planned for this year will be either canceled or rescheduled, figuratively mothballed.

Still, Moscow so far has made no reported attempt to cease relations with Brussels, as it did in March 1991 after NATO aircraft began strikes on Belgrade, the Serbian capital. Official NATO envoys were then given 48 hours to leave Moscow.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov said Aug. 28 at a Moscow briefing: "We aren't planning to slam the door, and they are keeping the door open, too. It will all depend on NATO's choice, on their priorities, not ours."

He said Russia does not need the cooperation as much as NATO does. The alliance wants Moscow for a partner. It wants our support, especially with regard to international operations in Afghanistan, "which is bound to decide the alliance's future. ... Russia's support (in Afghanistan) is crucial for NATO," Lavrov said.

It certainly would be too simple to believe that Moscow-NATO relations became strained after Russia launched its "peace enforcement" operation against Georgian aggressors who ruthlessly bombed and shelled the peaceful city of Tskhinvali, killing innocent civilians -- women, children and elderly people -- and Russian peacekeepers who happened to be there on a noble mission of keeping peace in that unstable Caucasian region.

There had been an increase in tension since NATO refused, possibly under Washington's pressure, to heed Russia's concerns over the unfair distribution of heavy weaponry quotas under the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which happened after the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organization, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the accession of former socialist countries and some Soviet republics to NATO.

NATO was indeed quite comfortable with more tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery and aircraft in all the main theaters of operation, and with "gray zones" not subject to inspection. NATO could deploy any number of weapons in these zones without looking back at the CFE.

The Atlantic alliance preferred to ignore Moscow's disapproval, and we know what happened next. The CFE collapsed, burying every instrument of defense transparency and trust in Europe.

Later, Ukraine's and Georgia's NATO accession plans brought yet another disturbing development into Moscow's relations with the Atlantic alliance. NATO began engaging Kiev in its projects with persistence worthy of a better use, despite the fact that the majority of Ukrainians were strongly opposed to the plan.

First, Ukraine's neutrality is documented in its constitution. Second, a NATO rule says a country cannot be admitted unless its population fully supports the move. But what does NATO care for rules if they are contrary to its political and military priorities?

NATO relations with Georgia are even more incredible. NATO isn't even baffled by the fact that the country has serous conflicts with its own breakaway regions that have been subdued by Georgian forces, suffered ethnic purges and finally proclaimed themselves independent.

(Part 2: The threat hanging over Russia's military and security cooperation programs with NATO)

(Nikita Petrov is a Russian military commentator. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Russian Nuke Cruise In Venezuela Manoeuvres As US Watches
Moscow (AFP) Sept 8, 2008
Russia said Monday it was dispatching a nuclear cruiser and other warships and planes to the Caribbean for joint exercises with Venezuela, the first such manoeuvres in the US vicinity since the Cold War.

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