Moscow assails NATO plan for closer ties with Georgia

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday strongly criticized NATO’s decision to deepen its cooperation with Georgia, saying the move could upset fragile stability in the Caucasus and hurt Russia’s interests. At the United Nations, meanwhile, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili accused Moscow of waging a «gangster occupation» of his nation and seeking to annex Georgia’s separatist provinces. NATO ministers, meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Thursday endorsed the so-called «intensified dialogue» with Georgia, aimed at forging closer ties between the alliance and the ex-Soviet nation. The 26-nation alliance backs Georgia’s economic reforms and supports its efforts to resolve conflicts in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Thursday. On Friday, however, Russia’s Foreign Ministry denounced the move as a throwback to the Cold War. «New security risks and challenges require other modes of international cooperation than the expansion of military-political alliances created during the time of the Cold War,» it said. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday that Georgia’s entry into NATO would »seriously affect Russia’s political, military and economic interests and have a negative impact on a fragile situation in the Caucasus. Georgia’s integration into the alliance will further worsen the Russian public’s attitudes to the alliance,» it said. Also on Friday, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia would deploy two brigades alongside the mountainous border with Georgia. «These bases will be located near the border with Georgia, and Russia’s security won’t be hurt if Georgia enters NATO,» he was quoted as saying by the Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies.