Medvedev Praises EU Over Sanctions

President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday praised the European Union's decision to reject slapping sanctions on Russia over its war with Georgia but criticized the Western bloc for failing to understand the Kremlin's motives in the conflict.

"In my view, the outcome is double-edged," Medvedev said of a resolution reached by EU leaders at the Monday summit in Brussels.

The heads of the EU's 27 member states at the emergency summit voted unanimously to tell postpone talks on a partnership agreement with Moscow until Russia removes its troops from Georgia.

They failed, however, to reach a consensus on whether Russia should be punished with sanctions over its refusal to withdraw troops from Georgia proper and its recognition of the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

In an interview with the Euronews television channel recorded at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Medvedev said the EU's criticism is a result of the bloc's failure to understand why Moscow sent its troops into Georgia and to recognize the rebel regions.

"This is sad, but not fatal, because things change in this world," he said.

Medvedev nevertheless commended the EU for refraining from sanctions, calling the decision "more positive."

"Despite certain divisions among the EU states on the issue, a reasonable, realistic point of view prevailed, because some of the states were calling for some mythical sanctions," he said.

Medvedev's assessment echoed those voiced earlier Tuesday by the Foreign Ministry and Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin.

"A number of countries called for imposing sanctions on Russia and freezing relations … but they remained in minority while the majority of the members displayed a responsible approach, reaffirming the course for partnership with Russia," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Rogozin told Interfax that the EU's decision not to impose sanctions marked a defeat for Poland and the bloc's three Baltic states — former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — which he accused of "implementing Washington's line for undermining pan-European cooperation."

The EU is insisting that Russia withdraw its troops from Georgia according to the six-point peace plan brokered last month by French President Nicolas Sarkozy after the Russian military crushed Georgian forces attempting to retake South Ossetia.

Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said in Brussels that he would lead an EU delegation to Moscow next Monday for talks on the current standoff in the South Caucasus. "We will have to re-examine our partnership with Russia," Sarkozy said Monday, calling on Moscow not to isolate itself.

In an opinion piece published in several major dailies worldwide Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned that Moscow risks paying both a political and economic price for its actions.

"It has made short-term military gains, but over time it will feel economic and political losses," Miliband wrote. "If Russia truly wants respect and influence, it must change course."

Like Sarkozy, however, Miliband advised against isolating Russia, calling on the EU to pursue "hard-headed engagement" with Moscow.

The White House, which has staunchly supported Georgia in the conflict, welcomed the EU's decision to boost its involvement in resolving the crisis while also promising to assist Tbilisi in its recovery from the war.

"The extraordinary EU summit demonstrates that Europe and the United States are united in standing firm behind Georgia's territorial integrity, sovereignty and reconstruction," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, The Associated Press reported. "We also agree with the EU's conclusion that Russia has a choice to make in order not to isolate itself from Europe."

The United States has been supplying Georgia with humanitarian aid and, jointly with several other NATO countries, has deployed warships to the Black Sea in the wake of the conflict.

Russia, whose military destroyed naval and army facilities across Georgia, has also deployed battleships to the area.

Speaking in Uzbekistan on Tuesday, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia would react "calmly" to NATO's increased naval presence in the Black Sea, Interfax reported.

Russia's "reaction will be calm, without any sort of hysteria," Putin said, though he added, "There will be an answer," Interfax reported.

Asked to elaborate on Russia's possible response, Putin said, "You'll see."