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    MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - The developments in South Ossetia should be vied in the context of the West's endeavours towards strengthening its stand in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, General Vladimir Romanenko, first deputy director of the CIS States Institute, told RIA Novosti.

    "The situation in South Ossetia must not be separated either from the situation in the Caucasus in general, or from the EU and NATO ingress in Transcaucasia and Central Asia", believes the renowned expert on the Caucasian region.

    In his opinion, NATO needs Georgia for launching a bridge through Turkey between the alliance's European members and Central Asia.

    "It is only natural that their main partner is Georgia, which, in its turn, attempts to exploit the current situation for its purposes", Mr. Romanenko pointed out.

    The expert has the impression that "the goals, which the young Georgian leadership set itself, are scarcely consistent with not only the history of our peoples' relations, but also the current interests of Georgia and Russia".

    "Georgia lives at Russia's expense. And it is high time to voice it. Ethnic Georgians annually take away about $2 billion from Russia. We provide Georgia with energy carriers, primarily, gas and electrical power, at lower prices", stressed the expert.

    "In spite of all, Georgia has been consistently pursuing unfriendly policy towards Russia of late", said Mr. Romanenko.

    As an example of such policy the expert mentioned Georgian President Saakashvili's statement in London, where he had urged the West "to put the heat on Russia to settle the South Ossetian problem".

    "Thus, Georgia wants to settle its problem by hands of the Russian peacekeepers, which is the role Tbilisi sees our country in. It is insulting for Russia", stressed Mr. Romanenko.

    He believes that such approach "will not lead to actual settlement of the current problems in the region".

    "The West does not understand the Caucasian mentality or realize, playing the Georgian card, that such developments make cause an explosion setting the whole Caucasus on fire", the general pointed out.

    Mr. Romanenko believes that settling the situation in the conflict zone requires "increase in the level of the peacekeeping forces stationed there". In his opinion, the necessary skills are enjoyed but he Russian personnel "who have gained significant experience of sound and, at the same time, decisive actions in various flashpoints".

    In 1993, Major General Vladimir Romanenko was in command of the marines, participating in operation on stabilizing the situation in Georgia. Then, ex-president Zviad Gamsakhurdia's supporters seized West Georgia, cutting Tbilisi off from the access to the sea.