Berlusconi to Cheney: Italy Headed Off New Cold War
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ROME — Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy said European efforts to defuse tension between Russia and America have kept the conflict with Georgia from sparking a new Cold War.
Italy “helped make this an isolated incident instead of a detonator” that could have started a new “Cold War,” Mr. Berlusconi said after meeting with Vice President Cheney yesterday in Rome. The two leaders discussed Mr. Cheney’s trip last week to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine, all struggling democracies bordering Russia.
President Bush and European leaders have condemned Russia’s military incursion into Georgia and its recognition of two separatist Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Beyond harsh words and $1 billion in American economic aid, there’s been little collective response from the allies.
Mr. Cheney praised Mr. Berlusconi as a “man of strength who accepts the duties of leadership” and said the international community “is united in deploring Russian military action.” Mr. Cheney, who commented that this would probably be his last visit to Italy before the end of his term in January, said Georgia’s border had been “violated.”
The American vice president repeated that Georgia and Ukraine “have every right” to join the NATO alliance, and he pointed out that Russia’s European border had never been safer.
“Russia’s western border, on the other hand, has never been safer than it is today,” Mr. Cheney said. “And that safety is the result of success across Europe in building prosperous democracies.”
Mr. Berlusconi highlighted European efforts to ease tensions, a reference to President Sarkozy of France, who brokered the cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia last month.
Mr. Berlusconi said that Russia had to remain a part of the “West,” making reference to an agreement between NATO and Russia, signed in Italy in 2002, to share intelligence and air defenses. Russia and Europe “are both part of the West, not two separate parts, but one,” Mr. Berlusconi said.
International unity would be needed to make sure the conflict is resolved according to international law, Mr. Cheney said.
“The international community supports the independence and territorial integrity of Georgia, and calls for the peaceful resolution of this dispute” through “good faith discussions” and “international mediation,” Mr. Cheney said.
Mr. Cheney returns to Washington today to report to Mr. Bush on his trip. An American official, speaking to reporters on Monday in Rome, said the American goal is to ensure that the West is marching in lockstep to develop a common response toward Russia after its five-day war with Georgia last month. The official gave no hint what the policy might be.
“Russia has a choice to make, and we in the transatlantic alliance have responsibilities,” Mr. Cheney said in a speech on September 6 in Cernobbio, Italy. He called Russia’s military action a new test of unity for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.