Rice raises doubts about Russia's integration into world economy


Published: Thursday September 18, 2008

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cast doubt Thursday on whether Russia, "increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad," will continue to be brought into the global economic fold.

In excerpts of a speech due to be delivered later Thursday, Rice said that because of its August 7 invasion of Georgia and other behavior, "Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) is now in question.

"And so too is its attempt to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development," she said according to excerpts released by the State Department ahead of her speech to the transatlantic German Marshall Fund.

No concrete retaliatory measures appeared in the excerpts of the speech. US officials have said Washington is reviewing "other options" beyond its suspension of civilian nuclear and military cooperation with Russia.

William Burns, the State Department's number three and former US ambassador to Russia, warned Wednesday that Russia's leaders risk a future political backlash from the growing economic fallout over its actions in Georgia.

Following Russian actions in Georgia, investor confidence has plummeted, capital has fled the country, and the Russian central bank has spent billions of its reserves to shore up a declining ruble, he told a Senate panel.

Appearing to underscore his point, Rice spoke directly to the leadership in Moscow represented by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"Our strategic goal now is to make it clear to Russia's leaders that their choices are putting Russia on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance," Rice said.

Such a goal will be achieved, she said, with help from the European Union.

"To reach its full potential, Russia needs to be fully integrated into the international political and economic order," Rice said.

Rice said Russia's leaders will fail to "accomplish their primary war aim of removing Georgia's government." Rice earlier this month announced one billion dollars in economic and other aid for Georgia.

Rice, an academic who specialized in Russia and the former Soviet Union, said that Russian actions toward Georgia fit into "a worsening pattern of behavior over several years."

She cited Russia's "use of oil and gas as a political weapon, its unilateral suspension of the CFE (Conventional Forces in Europe) Treaty, its threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons, its arms sales to states and groups that threaten international security, and its persecution, and worse of Russian journalists, and dissidents, and others," according to the excerpts.

"The picture emerging from this pattern of behavior is that of a Russia increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad," Rice said.

She said that the United States and its allies Russia's "attack on Georgia has crystallized the course that Russia's leaders are taking -- and brought us to a critical moment for Russia and the world."

Rice said Russia was finding an excuse for its behavior in blaming NATO's eastward expansion to include former soviet territory. Washington has supported efforts by Georgia and Ukraine to join the western alliance.

"With the end of the Cold War, we and our allies have worked to transform NATO -- from an alliance that manned the ramparts of a divided Europe -- to a means for nurturing the growth of a Europe whole, free, and at peace -- and for confronting dangers, like terrorism, that also threaten Russia," she said.