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HERALD TRIBUNE: Georgia steps up its diplomatic push for NATO membership.

Officials from Georgia are embarking on a major diplomatic offensive in Europe, fearing that Russia will do everything possible to destabilize the country before NATO membership talks can begin in December. David Bakradze, the Georgian foreign minister, who met Friday with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said his country was becoming caught in a bitter struggle between the West and Russia as it tried to anchor its political and security institutions solidly in Euro-Atlantic organizations and rid itself of Russian influence. At stake in the coming months, Bakradze said, is whether the West will bow to Russian pressure and possibly trigger a domino effect or stand firm until Moscow backs down. "If you draw lines and give Russia a free hand here, it will never work," Bakradze said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune. "If Russia is given a free hand, it will extend to other parts of Europe. Russia thinks it still has the right to interfere. But we say to the Europeans, if there is any appeasement towards Russia over the way it deals with us, it will have repercussions for other countries." Bakradze said the sense of appeasement had been palpable at the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest this month, where alliance leaders refused to offer Georgia or Ukraine a Membership Action Plan, which puts a country on the fast track toward joining the alliance. Germany, in particular, strongly opposed offering Georgia the fast track. In interviews at the time, Steinmeier said Moscow had already had a hard enough time accepting the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, whose unity Russia had supported.


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