Moscow, April 21 – Russia’s envoy to NATO on Monday threatened to call off a meeting of senior military commanders next month if the alliance went ahead with planned exercises in ex-Soviet Georgia, Interfax news agency reported.
“If we see no reaction (to Russia’s protests about the exercises) the Russia-NATO meeting of the chiefs of staff planned for May 7 will not take place,” Interfax quoted Dmitry Rogozin as saying.
Russia, which fought a brief war with Georgia last year, has protested bitterly against NATO’s plans to hold a series of international exercises near Tbilisi next month.
Medvedev has warned NATO already that the exercises could hinder efforts to unfreeze the alliances relations with Moscow, suspended after the Georgia war.
A decision by Russia and NATO to resume the work of the joint council is part of efforts to “press the reset button” on rocky ties between Moscow and Washington, after new U.S. President Barack Obama took office.
The council’s first ambassadorial meeting since the resumption of ties is scheduled for April 29 and a ministerial meeting is planned for May 19. Russian officials have so far sent no signal these meetings could be at risk.
Russia describes the exercises as NATO support for Georgia, a crucial transit route for Caspian Sea oil and gas to Europe, and long controlled by Moscow.
NATO says it does not understand why Moscow is upset by the plans for exercises which will involve 1,300 troops from 19 countries from May 6 to June 1.