August 20, 2008 / 5:19 PM / 11 years ago

Russia to continue NATO cooperation: envoy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Cooperation with NATO is crucial and Russia will behave in a pragmatic manner following the alliance’s decision to freeze regular contact with Moscow, Russia’s envoy to NATO told Reuters on Wednesday.

Russian troops dig trenches on the banks of river Rioni as they also position a mortar near a bridge that connects port city of Poti to inner Georgia August 20, 2008. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Under U.S. pressure, NATO agreed on Tuesday to freeze contacts with Russia until Moscow had withdrawn its troops from Georgia in line with a peace deal.

“We will carefully analyze this situation. There won’t be any aggressive action from anyone on our side. We will behave in a pragmatic manner... There will definitely not be a cold war,” Dmitry Rogozin said in a telephone interview.

Russia’s military cooperation with the Atlantic alliance, which has recently included joint exercises, work on detecting explosives and allowing NATO to cross Russian territory to reach Afghanistan, is not at stake, Rogozin said.

“I am planning, over the next few days, to give certain signals concerning military cooperation. I think the signals will be received positively by my (NATO) colleagues.”

“Without Russia’s support in Afghanistan, NATO would face a new Vietnam, and this is clear to everyone. Militarily, NATO and Russia have a very good and trusting relationship,” Rogozin said from his Brussels office.

Moscow’s representation at NATO later told Reuters that Rogozin was being recalled to Moscow for emergency consultations on a response to NATO’s recent criticism of Russia.

NATO-member Norway said on Wednesday Russia had decided to temporarily freeze military cooperation with members of the alliance but Rogozin emphasized this was not total.

“Now temporary decisions are being taken on the current cooperation and not about cooperation in general ... These decisions are of temporary character, of regional character, not global character,” he said.

Areas that could be affected were military naval exercises in the Far East, the Mediterranean and the Baltic region, he added. “We don’t need to ruin this cooperation now.”

NEW GEORGIAN MILITARY OPERATIONS

The alliance also agreed on Tuesday to upgrade contacts with Tbilisi, but stopped short of accelerating its efforts to join NATO, an ambition which has enraged Russia even before the two-week-old conflict over Georgia’s breakaway region.

The Russian military’s General Staff said the creation of a NATO-Georgia cooperation commission on Wednesday would only encourage Tbilisi to undertake new military operations, but Rogozin played this down.

“NATO rearming Georgia after all that has happened would be a serious contradiction in terms between NATO and the European Union ... it would be cynical and illegitimate,” he said.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO and Russia have agreed modest cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism and set up the NATO-Russia Council to manage a regular dialogue.

Backers of Tbilisi have said the conflict strengthened the argument for bringing Georgia into NATO as soon as possible but U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said earlier this week there was no plan to accelerate NATO discussions on the matter that are set for December.

Months of tension between Georgia and Russia erupted on August 7, when Tbilisi sought to regain control of South Ossetia. Russia, which backs the separatists, launched a counter-offensive that extended into other parts of Georgia.

Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Editing by Giles Elgood

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