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Russia - Authoritarian at Home and Aggressive Abroad

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Russia's leadership for their policies and actions, calling Russia "increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad" during her speech at the German Marshall Fund in Washington on Thursday.

"What is more disturbing about Russia's actions is that they fit into a worsening pattern of behavior over several years now," said Rice. "I'm referring, among other things, to Russia's intimidation of its sovereign neighbors, its use of oil and gas as a political weapon, its unilateral suspension of the CFE Treaty, its threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons, its arms sales to states and groups that threaten international security, and its persecution and worse of Russian journalists, and dissidents, and others."

Rice said that some attempted to shift the responsibility for Russia's pattern of behavior onto others, but "Russia's actions cannot be blamed, for example, on its neighbors like Georgia." Rice also said that Georgia could have responded better.

"To be sure, Georgia's leaders could have responded better to the events last month in South Ossetia, and it benefits no one to pretend otherwise. We warned our Georgian friends that Russia was baiting them, and that taking this bait would only play into Moscow's hands," she said.

The repeated violations of the ceasefire in South Ossetia, including the shelling of Georgian villages, was followed by Georgian military operations in Tskhinvali, with several Russian peacekeepers being killed during the fighting, said Rice.

"But Russia's leaders used this as a pretext to launch what, by all appearances, was a premeditated invasion of its independent neighbor. Indeed, Russia's leaders had laid the groundwork for this scenario months ago distributing Russian passports to Georgian separatists, training and arming their militias, and then justifying the campaign across Georgia's border as an act of self-defense."

She also dismissed and voiced annoyance with Russia's argument that NATO enlargement was a reason for such behavior. NATO "has consistently sought to enlist Russia as a partner in building a peaceful and prosperous Europe" and to claim that NATO is directed against Russia "is simply to ignore recent history," she said.

"Russia's behavior cannot be blamed either on NATO enlargement. With the end of the Cold War, we and our allies have worked to transform NATO form to bring it from an alliance that manned the ramparts of a divided Europe, to a means for nurturing the growth of a Europe whole, free, and at peace and an alliance that confronts the dangers, like terrorism, that also threaten Russia."

Georgia has survived and its economy will be rebuilt, said Rice, saying that the US is looking forward peaceful restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity.

"Russia's invasion of Georgia has achieved and will achieve no enduring strategic objective. And our strategic goal now is to make clear to Russia's leaders that their choices could put Russia on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance," she said.

The United States and Europe "must stand up to this kind of behavior," and not let Russia's aggression  achieve anything "not in Georgia not anywhere", said Rice.

"Accomplishing this goal will require the resolve and the unity of responsible countries most importantly, the United States and our European allies. We cannot afford to validate the prejudices that some Russian leaders seem to have: that if you press free nations hard enough if you bully them, and you threaten them, and you lash out they will cave in, and they'll forget, and eventually they will concede."

19 September Fri 2008, 17:41:39

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