Gates Cautions Russia

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday Russia risks long-lasting damage to its relations with the US because of its aggression in the Republic of Georgia. “The expectation was that our two nations, despite our differences, shared areas of common interest where we could work together as real partners,” he said during a Pentagon press briefing. However, Russia’s military incursion into Georgia “has called into question the entire premise of that dialogue and has profound implications” for the bilateral relationship as well as Russia’s standing with NATO, he said. Already the Pentagon has cancelled US participation in a multinational naval exercise with Russia that was set to begin today and a US-Canadian-Russian exercise called Vigilant Eagle that was scheduled to start on Aug. 20. Gates said DOD, in the days and weeks ahead, will reexamine its military-to-military activities with Russia across the board and will make changes as necessary and appropriate, depending on Russian actions. He also called on Russia, as President Bush did on Aug. 13, to ensure that all lines of communication and transport remain open during humanitarian relief operations to Georgia (see above). (AFPS report by Jim Garamone)