By going to war with Georgia in 2008, Russia halted NATO's expansion eastward, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday.
“If we had wavered in 2008, the geopolitical layout would have been different; a range of countries which the North Atlantic [Treaty Organization] tries to artificially ‘protect’ would have been within it,” Medvedev said at a meeting with military officers in Vladikavkaz in southern Russia.
The former Georgian republics South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s. Georgian forces attempted to bring South Ossetia back under central control in August 2008, but were repelled by the Russian military. Russia subsequently recognized both republics, and later Nicaragua, Venezuela and the tiny island nations of Nauru and Vanuatu followed suit.
After pro-Western Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia in 2004, the South Caucasus state has actively been pushing for entry into NATO to which Russia fiercely opposes. After the brief military conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi in 2008, NATO shelved the idea of bringing Georgia into the alliance.
“Time passes quickly, more than three years have passed, but the most important is that our stance on the events of this period has not changed,” Medvedev said.
He described Russia’s actions in the 2008 conflict as “indispensable for the salvation of human lives,” referring to Moscow's official stance that Russian troops saved South Ossetians from genocide by Georgia.
NATO and Russia froze relations for nearly a year after the Georgian conflict.
Russia and the alliance now have “turned back on direct rivalry,” the Russian president added. “However we should acknowledge that we have different stances on how a range of defense issues should be settled.”
NATO’s presence in the proximity to Russian borders concerns the country’s leadership and “creates certain nuisances to us,” Medvedev said. Three former Soviet republics – Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia – are NATO member-states.