MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In Brussels today, the 26 nations of NATO held an emergency meeting. It was convened to formulate some sharp response to Russia.
NATO allies have been increasingly frustrated with Russia, but coming up with tough measures is another matter as NPR's Mike Shuster reports from Brussels.
MIKE SHUSTER: The frustration among NATO nations is almost palpable. The alliance is unified in viewing Russia's military action in Georgia as unacceptable, a violation of international law and norms, and a challenge to the alliance itself. NATO members are further displeased that Russia signed an agreement to withdraw from Georgia which it's all but ignored.
But translating frustration into action - action that could challenge or reverse Moscow's invasion - has been almost impossible. So, what it came down to today was the decision on NATO's part to suspend for the time being formal diplomatic contacts with Russia through what's known as the NATO-Russia Council.
The alliance's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, explained.
Mr. JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General, NATO): There can be no business as usual with Russia under present circumstances. And the future of our relations will depend on the concrete actions Russia will take to honor the words of President Medvedev to abide by the six-point peace plan - which is not happening at the moment - he signed together with the president of Georgia.
SHUSTER: The alliance released a statement encapsulating its views on Russia and Georgia which is actually quite mild. Its language fails to capture the heat of how some in NATO feel about Russia right now.
Remarks from Secretary of State Rice have been fairly sharp but she, too, has had trouble explaining what actions NATO could take that would have some bite. She insisted that this meeting will send a strong signal to Russia.
Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (U.S. Department of State): The United States sought precisely what we got in this statement, which is, most importantly, support for Georgia's democracy. Secondly, a very strong message that the Russian president ought to keep his word; and third, a very clear statement of principle from this alliance that a new line in Europe where Russia somehow asserts that there are those who cannot opt for a transatlantic future is unacceptable.
SHUSTER: Support for Georgian democracy and its freedom to seek membership in NATO is embodied in a decision today to create a special status for Georgia, a NATO-Georgia Commission. At the same time, the alliance resisted Georgia's plea to speed up its application to be a full-blown member. Still, leaders of NATO believe that someday, Georgia will join NATO despite Russia's very strong objections.
All of this suggested that NATO and the U.S. were trying to isolate Russia, and some members don't think that's the way to change Russian behavior. Rice said Russia was responsible for its own isolation.
Sec. RICE: The United States doesn't seek to isolate Russia. The behavior of Russia in this most recent crisis is isolating Russia. When you start invading small neighbors, bombing civilian infrastructure, going into villages and wreaking havoc and wanton destruction of this infrastructure, that's what isolates Russia.
SHUSTER: Rice flew on to Poland tonight to hold discussions about deploying American missile interceptors there. The Russian invasion of Georgia prompted the Polish government to move from lukewarm to eager in considering this step, especially after a top Russian military official suggested Moscow would re-target nuclear missiles on Poland if Warsaw agreed to cooperate on this with the U.S.
That prompted the strongest words from NATO's secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Mr. SCHEFFER: I think that rhetoric is rather pathetic. Targeting NATO allies, in this case, Poland, if I use the phrase unhelpful rhetoric, I would react much too mildly. It is pathetic rhetoric.
SHUSTER: Not unexpectedly, Russia reacted angrily to the NATO meeting. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said NATO was biased and seeking to whitewash a criminal regime in Tbilisi.
Mike Shuster, NPR News, Brussels.
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