Encirclement Of Russia Continues

Already feeling pressured by the recent deal between NATO and Poland for new missile "defenses", General Anatoli Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of Russia's general staff, stated on Saturday that the imminent presence of US, Spanish, German, and Polish ships in the Black Sea "does not contribute to the settlement of the [Georgian] situation."

It's unsurprising that Russia would be concerned, as Russian Information Agency Novosti (RIA Novosti) website reported, also on Saturday, that an unnamed Russian security source has charged that the Georgian attack on South Ossetia was planned more than a year ago.

The Georgian operation was coordinated with NATO's plans to strengthen its naval presence in the Black Sea, RIA Novosti's source says, and

The statements of some NATO representatives that the maneuvers of the alliance's ships in the Black Sea were planned a year ago are evidence that attacks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia were planned earlier, maybe even last year.

RIA Novosti continues:

In the opinion of the source, NATO's buildup of naval forces in the Black Sea under the cover of providing humanitarian aid to Georgia, sets a dangerous precedent and may sharply destabilise the situation in the region.

While NATO continues to inflame the situation, Russia continues its diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov spoke by phone yesterday with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and said that Russia was prepared for "interaction" between Russian peacekeepers and OSCE observers within the security zone they have established around South Ossetia and Abkhazia, clarifying that such "interaction" does not mean replacing Russian forces by some other forces.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev yesterday sent a letter of congratulations to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko on Ukrainian Independence Day, in which Medvedev called for "a tangible strengthening of bilateral relations and a long-term economic partnership."

Medvedev also emphasised:

Of no less significance, however, is that we jointly take into account each other's interests in the area of foreign policy and security,

He went on to add that a solution to the Sevastopol port issue is pressing. Yushchenko recently signed a decree requiring prior notification from Russia of all movements by naval vessels based in Sevastopol, and announced that Ukraine will not extend the lease terms, under which the Russian Black Sea Fleet is based at the Crimean port, beyond May 2017.