WASHINGTON, September 20 (RIA Novosti) - NATO defense ministers considered at a meeting in London the creation of a rapid-response force to be sent into a country that feels threatened by Russia, the Los Angeles Times said.
The United States and other Western powers have criticized Russia for what they called an invasion of Georgia. Moscow said it was a response to Georgia's offensive to retake breakaway South Ossetia in early August. Tbilisi claimed Russian troops were sent to topple President Mikheil Saakashvili.
"The deployment force being considered would be small, light and defensive in nature," the newspaper said Friday citing an unidentified senior U.S. defense official.
Though the plan is widely supported by NATO member states, it is still unclear who would staff and equip the force, as well as who would have the authority to deploy it and under which circumstances, the paper said.
The project, pushed by the Bush administration, is intended both to reassure European allies and pacify Russia, the paper said.
NATO's plans have already provoked harsh responses from Russia. Andrei Klimov, a senior Russian lawmaker, said the project could further strain international relations.
Klimov said such "paranoid" moves fuel international tensions, prompting other countries to set up similar structures.
The deputy head of the State Duma's international affairs committee expressed hope that the 26-nation block will not go that far.
The majority of Western powers sided with Tbilisi over the South Ossetia crisis, criticizing Russia's military response to Georgia's attack as excessive and also condemning Moscow's August 26 recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
Russia said it was its moral duty to protect civilians and peacekeepers in the region and blamed the United States and other NATO countries for encouraging Georgian aggression by backing President Mikheil Saakashvili and supplying arms and training the ex-Soviet republic's military.