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Medvedev 'Would Attack Georgia Even If On NATO Track'

Medvedev speaking to the Valdai Club
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that even if Georgia were on a firm path to NATO membership, he would not hesitate to attack it under circumstances similar to last month's conflict.

Speaking to the annual meeting of the Valdai Club, a group of Russia experts, Medvedev also said he believed that Georgia's August 8 attack on the pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia was Russia's equivalent of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"Immediately after the events in the Caucasus, it occurred to me that August 8 was for us almost what 9/11 was for the United States," Medvedev said.

The Kremlin leader again attacked NATO's plans for further expansion into neighboring Ukraine and Georgia. He said putting these countries on an official track to membership would not help them in the event of another conflict with Russia.

"Just by getting closer to Russia's borders, NATO is not becoming stronger," Medvedev said. "What if Georgia had a NATO membership action plan? I would not wait for a second in making the decision I made at that point."

Georgian membership, he added, would be a destabilizing factor, both for the Western military alliance and for the volatile Caucasus region.

"The situation is not fair to Russia, it is humiliating for Russia. We are not going to tolerate this any longer," he added.

The Russian president balanced his remarks by saying he did not believe the Caucasus crisis had caused a fault line in relations between Russia and the West, which would lead to another long period of confrontation. "We don't need this," he said.