Rice Slams Russia, Says Georgia Actions 'Premeditated'

Washington's relations with Russia have fallen far and fast since President Bush famously declared in 2001 that he had looked into then-President Vladimir Putin's eyes and "was able to get a sense of his soul."

The deterioration of Russo-U.S. relations came to a head today in a speech by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which she criticized Russia's foreign policy as overly "aggressive" and its domestic policy as "increasingly authoritarian."

Rice declared that, as a result of Russia's recent actions, its desire to join the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development were "now in question." Rice stopped short of announcing publicly an American block on Russian membership.

Senior administration officials tell ABC News, however, that the United States will not allow Russian membership in those international organizations.

Rice made no mention in her remarks of veiled threats made last month to kick Russia out of the G8, a group of the world's wealthiest nations.

In an address to the German Marshall Fund in Washington, Rice bluntly outlined the Bush administration's qualms with Russia and the U.S. response, saying, "Our strategic goal now is to make it clear to Russia's leaders that their choices are putting Russia on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance."

"Russia's leaders are making some unfortunate choices. But they can make different ones," she continued. "But its choices will be shaped, in part by the actions of the United States, our friends, and our allies -- both the incentives we provide and the pressure we apply."

The United States also recently shelved a civil nuclear cooperation deal with Russia in response to Russia's actions in Georgia, where Moscow has resisted calls for the removal of Russian troops from undisputed Georgian territory.

"What is more disturbing about Russia's actions is that they fit into a worsening pattern of behavior over several years," Rice said.

She slammed Moscow for "intimidation of its sovereign neighbors, its use of oil and gas as a political weapon, its unilateral suspension of the CFE Treaty [the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe], its threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons, its arms sales to states and groups that threaten international security and its persecution and worse, of Russian journalists and dissidents, and others."

Rice used her speech to level a stinging accusation, that Russia had planned its August invasion of Georgia for several months.

Though she faulted Georgia for taking the bait, she said that "Russia's leaders used this as a pretext to launch what, by all appearances, was a premeditated invasion of its independent neighbor. Indeed, Russia's leaders had laid the groundwork for this scenario months ago."

Last month Georgia responded with force to attacks from separatist militias in the breakaway province of South Ossetia. Several Russian peacekeepers, in place for more than a decade, were killed in the fighting. Almost immediately Russian tanks and troops marched into the region and pushed on into undisputed Georgian territory.

The Russian move drew quick condemnation from the United States and its allies in Europe. Today Rice said Russia's actions in Georgia "crystallized the course that Russia's leaders are taking."

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