US Sec'y of State Condoleezza Rice
US Sec'y of State Condoleezza RiceIsrael News Photo: (US State Dept.)

Russia appears to be attempting to re-establish another Soviet Union, according to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and America intends to nip the effort in the bud.

In remarks to journalists during her flight to Brussels for a meeting of the NATO Council, Rice noted Russia’s reluctance to fulfill its end of a ceasefire agreement negotiated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy a week ago.

Russian forces remained in Georgia Tuesday morning, despite another promise by Russian President Dimitry Medvedev to fulfill his end of the ceasefire agreement negotiated last week by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

According to a Reuters reporter stationed near the Georgia-Russia border, no Russian tanks or armored personnel carriers (APCs) left the country they invaded 12 days ago through the only military crossing point back into Russia overnight.

Russia can't have it both ways.

The ceasefire agreement allows the Kremlin to leave a token “peacekeeping” force in the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which are populated primarily by ethnic Russians and which have been fighting Georgian control.

A letter by Sarkozy written to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili clarifying the terms of the ceasefire agreement signed by Russian President Dimitry Medvedev did not change matters, which Rice said would be discussed at the NATO meeting.

“I think the French will undoubtedly be seeking from the Russians an explanation for why the Russian President either won’t or can’t keep his word. That letter is absolutely clear about what the terms of this are. The French, as I understand it, shared the contents of this letter with Russia, and so this is a question of why the Russian president isn’t keeping his word,” she said.

The American Secretary of State reaffirmed the US commitment to its ally, vowing that “Georgian infrastructure will be rebuilt. Georgia’s economy will be reinforced.”

Rice also noted that a wider risk is developing, one she said NATO is moving to block, by “[backing] up states that might be at risk of being reabsorbed into the Russian constellation.

“We have an objective in the alliance to reaffirm the support of the alliance for those states that are now well outside of Russia’s reach; that is, those that have been fully integrated into the transatlantic structures, states like - the Baltic states like Poland, which are fully integrated members of the transatlantic community. And that just shows how far we’ve come since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and certainly how far we’ve come since 1968 when one of the countries that will be sitting around that table was brutally attacked and its government overthrown by Soviet forces.”

Rice noted that NATO would have to choose between a re-established Soviet presence in the region, or allowing states like Georgia and the Ukraine, neither of which is a member, to join its ranks. She made it clear, however that the timetable for making that decision, due in December, would not be moved up.

“We are also going to send a message that we’re not going to allow Russia to draw a new line at those states that are not yet integrated into the transatlantic structures like Georgia and Ukraine. And so the alliance will need to consider what it wishes to do to clearly indicate that we’re not accepting a new line,” she said.

The bottom line, she said pointedly, remains at the Kremlin.

“This alliance has kept open a road for a strategic choice of Russia as friend, not adversary…But frankly, Russia can’t have it both ways. It can’t act in a way that it did during the Cold War when it was the Soviet Union and expect it to be treated – expect to be treated as a responsible partner as President Medvedev outlined in the speech that he made just a few weeks ago.”

Rice added that although Russia had continued its cooperation with the US on strategic projects regarding nuclear issues in Iran and North Korea, it was “not because Russia is doing favors to the United States, but because they are in Russia’s interests.

“Russia doesn’t benefit from a nuclear Iran,” she maintained. “Matter of fact, since Iran is a lot closer to Russia than it is to the United States, it certainly doesn’t benefit. And it certainly doesn’t benefit from a Middle East that would be roiled by the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Similarly, I don’t think Russia benefits from instability on the Korean peninsula, or further North Korean proliferation, nor does Russia benefit from the continued difficulty in the Levant, Israel, Palestine and so forth.”

A nuclear facility allegedly built with the assistance of North Korea was destroyed in a remote northeastern location in Syria on September 6, 2007, in an attack widely ascribed by foreign media to Israeli operatives. The Israeli government has remained silent on the issue. 

Both Israel and the US, however, are vocal about the threat of a nuclear Iran, which they maintain is rapidly becoming a realistic threat, giving the progress in the Islamic Republic's continuing uranium enrichment activities, despite numerous sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map.