- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2008

CERNOBBIO, Italy | Casting Moscow as a brutal regime that aims to recapture its Soviet-era dominance, Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday urged NATO members to stand together against threats to democracy.

In the Bush administration’s most hawkish tone since Russia‘s five-day war with Georgia last month over breakaway territories, Mr. Cheney reminded the West of its “responsibilities” and slammed Russia’s “chain of aggressive moves.”

Mr. Cheney’s tough talk came hours after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned that Moscow was a “force to be reckoned with,” as tensions between Russia and the West soared to heights unseen since the Cold War.

“Russia has a choice to make, and we in the trans-Atlantic alliance have responsibilities,” Mr. Cheney told a gathering of world political and financial leaders in Italy, after visiting Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine last week to pledge U.S. support.

“Our prevailing need is for unity of purpose,” he said.

“We know that if one country is allowed to unilaterally redraw the borders of another, it will happen - and it will happen again. We know that if we permit a new line to be drawn across Europe, that line will be drawn.”

Mr. Cheney hailed the demise of the Soviet Union as a historic milestone for freedom and said that although the West had left those days behind, Russia appears to seek a return to the Soviet era.

“At times, it appears that Russian policy is based upon the desire to impose its will on countries it once dominated, instead of any balanced assessment of security interests,” Mr. Cheney said.

He also said Russia was defying its responsibilities under a French-brokered cease-fire for Georgia and declared Russia was on an “opposite course” from the West.

“Though aware of these responsibilities, Russia has yet to meet them. Indeed, it has taken the opposite course, by recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states,” Mr. Cheney said.

Mr. Cheney pointed to Russia’s military action over the rebel region of South Ossetia, as well as Russian arms sales to Middle East militants, its energy prowess in the region, threats against NATO-member Poland and its defiance of a French-brokered cease-fire accord.

“Recent occurrences in Georgia, beginning with the military invasion by Russia, have been flatly contrary to some of our most deeply held beliefs,” Mr. Cheney said.

“Russian forces crossed an internationally recognized border, into a sovereign state; fueled and fomented an internal conflict; conducted acts of war without regard for innocent life,” he said.

“All this against a nation that has a democratically elected government and an orientation toward the West,” Mr. Cheney added.

“This chain of aggressive moves and diplomatic reversals has only intensified the concern that many have about Russia’s larger objectives. For brutality against a neighbor is simply the latest in a succession of troublesome and unhelpful actions by the Russian government,” he said.

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