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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Gloats Over Veto of NATO Plan

Russia's ambassador to NATO said Wednesday that the alliance's decision to rule out near-term membership for Ukraine and Georgia shows that the U.S.-led military bloc is shying away from interfering with Russia's sphere of influence.

NATO foreign ministers, meanwhile, affirmed on Wednesday their support for U.S. plans to install anti-missile defenses in Europe despite Russia's opposition.

Western European countries led by Germany on Tuesday maintained a veto on membership road maps for the two former Soviet republics and succeeded in lifting a U.S.-driven freeze on NATO's ties with Russia.

"There is an open split within NATO, and it will widen if NATO tries to expand further," Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO, said Wednesday in comments on the web site of state-run Vesti-24 television. "The schemes of those who adopted a frozen approach to Russia have been destroyed."

Russia has called Georgia a tool of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration, warned that NATO entry would break Ukraine into two ministates and has denounced a planned U.S. missile-defense shield in Europe by threatening to deploy missiles in its Baltic Sea enclave, Kaliningrad.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried dismissed the Russian rhetoric as bluster, saying the 26-nation alliance has not handed the Kremlin an effective veto over its future expansion.

"Russia says a great many things along these lines," Fried told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday. "I have learned, and I think we have all learned, not to take them at complete face value."

Foreign ministers from all 26 NATO members on Wednesday signed a statement backing the deployment of interceptor missiles in Poland and an advanced radar station in the Czech Republic. The planned U.S. defenses in the two countries will make a "substantial contribution" to protecting allies from the threat of long-range ballistic missiles, the statement said.

Doubts about allied support for the plan were raised last month when French President Nicolas Sarkozy said it would "bring nothing to security ... it would complicate things and would make them move backward." His statement at a meeting in France with President Dmitry Medvedev appeared to contradict his early support for the missile plans at a NATO summit in April. But in Washington a few days later, the French leader changed tack again, saying the anti-missile shield could "complement" Western defenses against a threat from Iran.

The NATO ministers agreed Tuesday to gradually resume contacts with Moscow, which were frozen after Russian troops poured into Georgia in August. However, they were critical of Moscow's actions and insisted that the resumption of low-level talks would not mean a return to business as usual for the NATO-Russia Council.

Membership for Georgia and Ukraine "is an utterly American project, which has had a lot of money and effort poured into it," Konstantin Kosachyov, head of State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said in comments cited by Vesti.

(Bloomberg, AP)