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BRUSSELS, Belgium–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that Russia is playing a “very dangerous game” with the U.S. and its allies and warned that NATO would not allow Moscow to win in Georgia, destabilize Europe or draw a new

BRUSSELS, Belgium–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that Russia is playing a “very dangerous game” with the U.S., and its allies and warned that NATO would not allow Moscow to win in Georgia, destabilize Europe or draw a new Iron Curtain through it.

On her way to an emergency NATO foreign ministers meeting on the crisis, Rice said the alliance would punish Russia for its invasion of the Georgia, and deny its ambitions by rebuilding and fully backing Georgia and other Eastern European democracies.

“We have to deny Russian strategic objectives, which are clearly to undermine Georgia’s democracy, to use its military capability to damage, and in some cases destroy Georgian infrastructure and to try and weaken the Georgian state,” she said.

“We are determined to deny them their strategic objective,” Rice told reporters aboard her plane, adding that any attempt to recreate the Cold War by drawing a “new line” through Europe and intimidating former Soviet republics and ex-satellite states into submission would fail.

“We are not going to allow Russia to draw a new line at those states that are not yet integrated into the trans-Atlantic structures,” she said, referring to Georgia and Ukraine, which have not yet joined NATO or the European Union but would like to.

Rice could not say what NATO would eventually decide to do to make its position clear but said the alliance would speak with one voice “to clearly indicate that we are not accepting a new line.”

At the same time, she said that by flexing its military muscle in Georgia as well as elsewhere, including the resumption of Cold War-era strategic bomber patrols off the coast of Alaska, Russia was engaged in high-stakes brinksmanship that could backfire.

This “is a very dangerous game and perhaps one the Russians want to reconsider,” Rice said of the flights that began again with frequency about six months ago. “This is not something that is just cost free. Nobody needs Russian strategic aviation along America’s coast.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the NATO ministers will consider a range of upcoming activities planned with Russia — from military exercises to ministerial meetings — and decide case-by-case at the meeting Tuesday whether to go ahead or cancel each.

They will also discuss support for a planned international monitoring mission in the region and a package of support to help Georgia rebuild infrastructure damaged in its devastating defeat at the hands of the Russian armed forces.

And, she suggested that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who signed an E.U.- backed cease-fire brokered by the French, may be unable to exert power behind the scenes against his powerful predecessor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, or the Russian military.

She said she thought the French would be seeking “an explanation from the Russians for why the Russian president either won’t or can’t keep his word.”

“It didn’t take that long for the Russian forces to get in and it really shouldn’t take that long for them to get out,” Rice said.

Amid worsening relations with Moscow, NATO ministers were expected to review a range of military, ministerial and other upcoming activities planned with Russia—and decide on a case by case basis whether to cancel each activity.

Russian troops and tanks have controlled a wide swath of Georgia for days. They also began a campaign to disable the Georgian military, destroying or carting away large caches of military equipment.

Two senior U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity Monday that intelligence also showed the Russian military had moved several SS-21 missile launchers into South Ossetia, in range of Tbilisi.

The move Friday allows Russia to pull out of Georgia proper as promised but punish Tbilisi at any moment with the push of a button. Experts said it is the same weapon system used in October 1999, when missiles slammed into the Chechen capital of Grozny and killed at least 140 people.

All of the missiles that were fired into Georgia during the conflict were fired from Russian territory, one of the administration officials said.

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to confirm the report of the missile launchers but said such positioning would be prohibited by the cease-fire that Russia agreed to.

“Anything such as that, or any other military equipment that was moved in, would be in violation of the cease-fire and should be removed immediately,” Whitman said.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, warned that an anti-Russian propaganda campaign could jeopardize existing security cooperation. “We hope that tomorrow’s decisions by NATO will be balanced and that responsible forces in the West will give up the total cynicism that has been so evident (,which) is pushing us back to the Cold War era,” he told reporters Monday.

Washington has denied Rogozin’s claims that it is out to wreck the NATO-Russia Council —a consultative panel set up in 2002 to improve relations between the former Cold War foes.

“We don’t want to destroy the NATO-Russia Council, but Russia’s actions have called into question the premise of the NATO-Russia relationship,” U.S. Ambassador Kurt Volker said ahead of the NATO talks.

AP

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Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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