Turkish protests at US and Nato warships moving into the Black Sea
Georgia: Europe unites to condemn Kremlin
David Miliband joined a chorus of Western leaders to condemn Russia, accusing the Kremlin of jeopardising European security by recognising Georgia's two breakaway regions.
By Con Coughlin in Kiev, Adrian Blomfield in Tbilisi and Harry de Quetteville in Berlin Telegraph
6:08AM BST 28 Aug 2008
The rhetorical salvoes showed the new strain on relations with Russia. For its part, the Kremlin said it had only defended its citizens in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, argued the decision had been "unavoidable".
Speaking in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, the Foreign Secretary said that Russia was "more isolated, less trusted and less respected" as a result of its actions in Georgia. These breached a United Nations Resolution, approved by Moscow last April, which reaffirmed Georgia's sovereignty over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Mr Miliband placed the onus for avoiding a new Cold War firmly on President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. "The Russian President says he is not afraid of a new Cold War. We don't want a new Cold War. He has a big responsibility not to start one," he said.
Comparing Russia's actions to the Prague Spring of 1968, when Moscow suppressed a reformist Czech government, Mr Miliband said: "The sight of Russian tanks in a neighbouring country on the 40th anniversary of the crushing of the Prague Spring has shown that the temptations of power politics remain. The old sores and divisions fester. And Russia is not yet reconciled to the new map of this region."
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, issued a stark warning. "If we don't watch out, Europe's whole security architecture will start to falter with unforeseeable consequences for all of us. The spiral of provocation must stop immediately," he said.
France, which holds the European Union's rotating presidency, expressed concern that Moscow, emboldened by its military success in Georgia, could turn on other former Soviet republics with breakaway provinces and large Russian minorities.
Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, described the situation as "very dangerous" and said: "There are other objectives that one can suppose are objectives for Russia, in particular the Crimea, Ukraine and Moldova."
Moscow backs separatist rebels in Moldova's region of Transdniester in much the same way that the Kremlin supported South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russian nationalists have frequently called for the return of the Crimea, which was transferred to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.
So far, only the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has followed Russia and recognised the independence of the two regions. Mr Lavrov, the Kremlin's foreign minister, said: "I can only say that we will not be roving the globe, twisting hands and twisting arms of people for them to recognise South Ossetia or Abkhazia."
He added that Russia taken this step for the sake of its citizens in both enclaves. "This recognition was absolutely unavoidable. Short of losing our dignity as a nation, we couldn't act otherwise," said Mr Lavrov.
America did not join the verbal barrage against Russia. Instead, the US Coast Guard ship Dallas docked in Georgia's port of Batumi and unloaded humanitarian aid. The USS McFaul, a destroyer armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles dropped anchor nearby in the Black Sea.
Mr Medevedev claimed yesterday the American ships were supplying arms to Georgia. Raising the possibility of a naval confrontation, he ordered the Russian cruiser "Moskva" and two missile boats to deploy off the coastal city of Sukhumi in breakaway Abkhazia.
This summoned memories of the first confrontation of the Cold War when the USS Missouri was deployed in the Black Sea in 1946 to deter Russian threats against Turkey.