US President George W Bush on Monday froze a much vaunted US-Russian civilian nuclear pact in protest at Moscow’s military moves in Georgia.
The first casualty in recently touted cooperation among the former Cold War foes, the US-Russian deal to establish joint ventures and share peaceful nuclear technology has been pulled from consideration for now.
In formally notifying the Congress of his decision, Bush wrote that the Russian government had taken actions that are “incompatible with peaceful relations with its sovereign and democratic neighbor Georgia.”
Russian troops poured into Georgia last month to repel an attack by the Georgian army aimed at retaking South Ossetia. They have remained deep inside Georgian territory in what Moscow calls “security zones.”
Both Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was the first to announce the decision, said the pact could be resubmitted to Congress if circumstances change.
“We make this decision with regret,” Rice said in a statement read by her spokesman Sean McCormack. “Unfortunately, given the current environment, the time is not right for this agreement.”
Russia reacted with ambivalence to Bush’s decision. “Such a step is regrettable” and is “out of keeping with bilateral relations,” said a Russian foreign affairs ministry official.
However, “Russia does not need civilian nuclear cooperation with the United States more than (Washington),” said the official who asked to remain anonymous.