Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton questioned her Russian counterpart twice in recent months about reports of the Moscow government’s involvement in the bombing attempt on the U.S. Embassy in Georgia in September.
Mrs. Clinton raised the Sept. 22 incident in February on the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to four U.S. officials.
At the meeting Feb. 5, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lavrov signed the New START arms pact, which President Obama has said is the centerpiece of his administration’s new “reset” policy of seeking closer ties with Russia.
However, the officials said that despite the issue having been raised in Munich, Russian GRU Maj. Yevgeny Borisov, who the Georgian Interior Ministry and a CIA-authored report have said is behind a spate of bombings in Georgia, continues to operate from a base in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia.
The National Intelligence Council, the analytical arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, provided Congress on Thursday with a new analysis of the blast. One administration official told The Washington Times there was “no consensus” on responsibility for the Tbilisi blast.
The new analysis followed disclosure by The Times on July 22 of a Russian government link to the attempted bombing that was based on a Georgian government probe and a CIA study.
Mrs. Clinton brought up the bombing a second time on July 13, the same day she and Mr. Lavrov signed a new U.S. agreement on child adoptions.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner declined to comment on the discussions. “We can’t get into the substance of our diplomatic exchanges with any other country,” he said. “We do discuss with all parties in the region issues affecting regional security and stability. I am not going to get into specifics.”
In an interview Thursday, Shota Utiashvili, director of information and analysis for the Georgian Interior Ministry, revealed that Maj. Borisov remains in Abkhazia.
Some U.S. intelligence officials complained that the U.S. reaction to the possible state-sponsored terrorism has been too weak. “The fact that this GRU major is still at large in Abkhazia should tell you all you need to know about how effective our response has been,” one U.S. intelligence official said.
Normally, intelligence officers who are exposed by another government are recalled home and their careers are cut short.
Russian officials have denied the charges and accused Georgia of trying to foment a propaganda campaign by pinning the embassy blast on their military intelligence service.
“It looks like the aim of the publication in The Washington Times is to trigger a second propaganda wave around issues that have already been discussed with American and Georgian representatives at the beginning of this year,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
David Smith, chief negotiator during defense and space talks with the Soviet Union during the George H.W. Bush administration said Russia’s motivation for such activities is “fairly clear.”
“Part of the reason they do these things is precisely because it is not clear to Westerners why they would do them,” he said. “They are out to destabilize Georgia. They are out to make it look like it is a chaotic and lawless place.”