US wary of punishing Russia for conflict with Georgia

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New York, Sep 4 : The Bush administration does not plan to draw up a "mindless list" of penalties that could alienate Russia because of its recent conflict with Georgia.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried said Washington is keen to know how much Russia would like to isolate itself from the world.

We don't want to have a bad relationship with Russia. We've never wanted that," the New York Times quoted Fried, as saying.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked her advisers to "think this (stand-off with Russia) through in a serious way," as the Bush Administration is nearing its end.

With the European Union failing to reach an agreement Monday on imposing sanctions for Moscow's invasion of Georgia, Fried has been consulting with EU officials on "next steps," to be taken, if any, against Moscow.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Dick Cheney is on a visit to Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan to assess the fall out of the conflict.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered a review of military cooperation agreements with Russia as part of a wider evaluation of relations in response to the continued presence of Russian troops in parts of Georgia.

The review, a Pentagon spokesman said, encompasses the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a program to combat the proliferation of nuclear, biological, chemical and other weapons of mass destruction.

However, the most prominent program administered by the agency - known as Nunn-Lugar - will not be affected, said Mark Hayes, a spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Georgia sent troops into the enclave of South Ossetia on Aug. 7 in an attempt to regain control of the republic, which had declared independence from Georgia on several occasions. Russia retaliated by sending troops into South Ossetia; another disputed enclave, Abkhazia; and Georgia.

Despite agreeing to a cease-fire brokered by France last month, Russian troops remain in parts of Georgia.

Before the Russian incursion, Gates said, the United States thought it could have a "long-term strategic dialogue" with Russia. But the invasion has called into question the entire premise of U.S.-Russia talks, he said, adding that ties could be negatively affected for years.

Other activities subject to review include: Partnership for Peace exercises, several bilateral military exercises, several naval exercises and tabletop exercises, in which participants study strategy around a table or in a classroom.

The Bush administration also is putting off implementation of an Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation, or the so-called "123 Agreement," which was approved in May.

A senior U.S. official said there should have been "a clear high-level warning to the Russians," but the Bush administration did not issue one because it "didn't think they would invade Georgia proper."

Mr. Fried echoed other U.S. and European calls on Moscow to fully respect a cease-fire and to pull all its troops out of Georgia, and said the West is struggling to figure out how to "make clear that [the Russians'] acts against Georgia and threats against other neighbors are unacceptable" without antagonizing the Russian people.

ANI

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