MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday that any future NATO decision to admit Georgia to its ranks could trigger “a terrible conflict” and he questioned why the alliance was even considering such a move.
Medvedev’s comments comes weeks after President Vladimir Putin warned NATO against cultivating closer ties with Ukraine and Georgia, saying such a policy was irresponsible and would have unspecified consequences for the alliance.
“It (Georgia’s entry to NATO) could provoke a terrible conflict. It’s not clear why this is needed,” Medvedev told Russia’s Kommersant FM radio station, which broadcast fragments of an interview with him on Monday.
Georgia’s NATO ambitions have been a source of anger for Russia — which shares a border with ex-Soviet republic Georgia and does not want to see it join what it regards as a hostile military bloc — since 2008 when NATO leaders promised Georgia it would one day join the alliance.
Russian forces entered two breakaway Georgian regions in 2008, which remain garrisoned by Russian troops to this day, something Moscow says is in keeping with local people’s wishes, but which the West and the Georgian government calls an illegal occupation.
NATO leaders discussed ties with Georgia at their summit in Brussels in July.
Prominent Georgian politicians are keen for their country to join the Western military alliance, but have seen chances of joining hampered by Russian territorial incursions.
Under NATO rules, countries with territorial conflicts cannot join NATO.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Richard Balmforth)