Moscow Warns NATO Not to 'Play With Fire'

But US backs bids by Georgia and Ukraine to join alliance
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2008 6:59 PM CDT
NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, left, and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.   (AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)
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(Newser) – Moscow urged NATO today not to absorb ex-Soviet republics Georgia and Ukraine, Reuters reports. "It's a dangerous game to play with fire," said Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov, who warned that Russia's military ties with NATO were at stake. His remarks come days before a NATO summit in Bucharest, where Vladimir Putin will attend—and Georgia and Ukraine will seek roadmaps into the alliance.

Washington backs both bids, but Germany and France are among EU members that balk at the timing. They say Georgia is destabilized by two breakaway regions, both of which Moscow supports. Lavrov concurred: "If Georgia intends to gain NATO support in order to solve these two conflicts by means of force, it's a dangerous game." But Georgia contends that bombings in South Ossetia aim only to ruin the nation's NATO bid.