Re: East Europe tries to protect itself from Russia
On Aug 16, 3:36 pm, Geoffrey <geoff...@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
East Europe tries to protect itself from Russia
Aug 16 01:15 PM US/Eastern
By VANESSA GERA
Associated Press Writer
WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Poland strikes a deal on a U.S. missile defense
base. Ukraine tries to limit the Russian navy's movement in its waters.
The Czech Republic's leader warns his nation is in danger of being
sucked back into Moscow's orbit.
Russia's attack on Georgia has sparked fears across the young
democracies of Eastern Europe that Moscow is once again hungry for
conquest—and they are scrambling to protect themselves by tightening
security alliances with Western powers.
On Friday, Moscow sent a new jolt through the region when a top Russian
general was quoted as saying that the missile defense deal signed the
previous day by Washington and Warsaw exposes Poland to an attack.
"Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike—100
percent," Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said, according to Interfax News
Around the region, memories are being revived of the darkest days of
In Prague, where Czechs on Wednesday will mark the 40th anniversary of
the Soviet invasion that crushed a reform movement, Prime Minister Mirek
Topolanek expressed fears of history repeating itself.
"The Russian tanks on the streets of Georgian towns remind us ... of the
invasion in 1968," Topolanek wrote in Mlada Fronta Dnes daily, the
country's biggest newspaper.
"But it is not just history. It is still, even now, a relevant question
whether we will or will not belong to the sphere of Russian influence."
He appealed to his political opponents to support his unpopular plan to
host a U.S. missile defense shield.
Since fighting broke out more than a week ago between Russia and
Georgia, the crisis has dominated headlines and sparked pro-Georgia
rallies across Eastern Europe.
Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and the leaders of four ex-Soviet
republics journeyed together to Tbilisi last week to show solidarity
with Georgia. At a demonstration there, Kaczynski declared that the
Russians had again "shown the face that we have known for centuries."
Poland was carved in two by Germany and the Soviet Union when they were
allies at the beginning of World War II. After the war, Poland and the
other east European countries became Soviet satellites for some 40
Fears have grown in recent years as Russia has used its vast energy
reserves to exert control over its neighbors, as when it cut off gas to
Ukraine the winter after the pro-democracy Orange Revolution of 2004 put
the country on a pro-Western course.
"I am scared of those things that are happening in Georgia now," said
Juste Viaciulyte, a 23-year-old student among thousands of people who
rallied Thursday in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, to protest Russia's
actions in Georgia.
He noted that the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad borders his country
"and is beefed up with Russian soldiers, missiles and tanks. It would
take just several hours for them to ignite a similar nightmare here in
Lithuania if something turned really wrong."
Of all the Eastern democracies, the most vulnerable is probably Ukraine,
a nation wedged between Russia and NATO states—and which itself is
seeking to join the Western security alliance.
Eugeniusz Smolar, director of the Center for International Relations in
Warsaw, said that countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are safer
because they already belong to NATO and the EU.
"But not so with Ukraine; with Ukraine there is fear," Smolar said.
"It's very unstable politically, there is a strong pro-Russian political
element, plus there's strong activity of Russian intelligence."
Ukraine is strategically important to Russia because its pipelines carry
Russian oil and gas westward, and its port of Sevastopol is home to
Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
The port is leased to Russia through 2017, after which Ukraine wants the
navy out. And in a strong show of support to Georgia on Wednesday,
Ukraine ordered limits on the movement of the Russian ships since they
were deployed to Georgia's Black Sea coast as part of Russia's military
Above all, Ukraine, with its huge Russian-speaking population in its
east and south, has immense emotional resonance for Russians—and Moscow
has been humiliated by Ukraine's push to join NATO.
Feeling vulnerable, Ukraine's pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko,
is appealing to the West to uphold Georgia's territorial integrity—a
message made in a phone call with President Bush on Thursday.
He also stressed the importance of the "Euro-Atlantic partnership,"
another sign that Ukraine is putting its hope in NATO membership. The
Georgia crisis has raised Ukrainian fears that its NATO bid will be
shelved for fear of Russia's response.
And there are signs Eastern European countries feel that their NATO
membership isn't sufficient protection.
As part of the preliminary missile defense deal that Poland struck with
the United States on Thursday, it secured from Washington a commitment
of swifter help than that offered by NATO.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said NATO would be too slow in coming
to Poland's defense if threatened and that the bloc would take "days,
weeks to start that machinery."
"It is no good when assistance comes to dead people. Poland wants to be
in alliances where assistance comes in the very first hours of—knock on
wood—any possible conflict," Tusk said.
On Saturday, Poland's president, Kaczynski, criticized the way France
and Germany have handled the Russia-Georgia crisis, accusing them of
being too soft on Moscow due to their commercial ties with Russia.
Kaczynski also said that European Union policy was being decided by the
two EU giants without taking into consideration the views of new EU
members such as Poland that once fell under Moscow's control.
"Saying that the Union will have a common policy toward Russia is
laughable," Kaczynski said in an interview published by the daily
Rzeczpospolita and also posted on his official Web site.
Anxiety in the Baltic states runs deep in part because, like Ukraine,
they have large Russian minorities.
There is fear that Moscow could repeat there what it did in South
Ossetia, the breakaway republic where fighting began: Hand out passports
to ethnic Russians. Moscow justified its attack on Georgia as necessary
to protect its citizens.
The big question hanging over the efforts to shore up military ties with
Western powers is whether they protect them or merely fuel tensions.
Strolling through Kiev's Independence Square, the heart of Ukraine's
Orange Revolution, Oleksandr Pylypchuk, a 43-year-old doctor, said he
worries that the country's new Western course could be crushed by
"I remember this square was covered with the orange flags of democracy,"
he said. "I'm afraid it could become the red of blood."
Associated Press writers Olga Bondaruk in Kiev, Ukraine; Liudas Dapkus
in Vilnius, Lithuania; and Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic
contributed to this report.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.
Like we said....Time for Russia to put a missile base on Cuba, "just
in case" Iran tries to attack Miami.
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