Russia Asks Obama for Change

APBarack Obama speaking Tuesday with George W. Bush at the White House.
The Foreign Ministry is calling on U.S. President Barack Obama to end Washington's "anti-Russian" policy of granting swift NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia.

Obama was sworn in Tuesday as the 44th U.S. president before a sea of people. He made no mention of Russia in his first speech to the United States as its new leader.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the policy of former President George W. Bush had destabilized Ukraine and helped spark last summer's war in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

"I would like to hope that the new people in the White House will learn from the mistakes of their predecessors," Ryabkov said in an interview published by his ministry this week.

European states led by Germany and France blocked a U.S. drive at a NATO summit last year to grant Ukraine and Georgia a road map to membership. Officials said neither country was ready and that membership would unnecessarily provoke Moscow, which considers the former Soviet republics to be part of its zone of influence.

"We are not against bilateral relations between the United States and ... Ukraine and Georgia," Ryabkov said. "But at the same time we do not intend to close our eyes to a situation in which the vector of such ties begins to negatively influence Russian interests in the area of national security. ... This relates in full to the essentially anti-Russian advancement of the policy of speedy NATO accession for Kiev and Tbilisi."

Ryabkov said the costs of speedy accession "are well-known to everyone," citing the "destabilization" of Ukraine and Georgia's attack on South Ossetia.

Russian officials say that U.S. military aid to Georgia was taken by President Mikheil Saakashvili as a sign of encouragement ahead of its attack last summer on South Ossetia, which was repelled by Russian forces. Georgia argues that it acted in self-defense.