But the position of the local government, president and parliament alike, meant nothing to Simmons, such is NATO's contempt even for its partners, who averred "I think the situation on the withdrawal of Azerbaijan’s peacekeeping forces from Kosovo can change."
(Azeri Press Agency, March 8, 2008)
His main goal was achieved, though, as he had delivered the second phase of the Individual Partnership Action Plan.
"Simmons said that the key issues in the Plan are training of Azerbaijan’s army for participation in the joint operations with NATO forces, the holding of trainings, as well as military training and support by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry."
(Trend News Agency, March 10, 2008)
A few days earlier Simmons had stirred up a controversy by claiming that Uzbekistan had agreed to turn the Khanabad base it had evicted US military forces from almost two years before back over to the Pentagon for the war in South Asia, which elicited this reaction from an Uzbek official: "Farkhad Murtazayev bristled at comments made earlier by NATO special envoy to Central Asia and the Caucasus Robert Simmons, who insisted that Uzbekistan was ready to give its go-ahead."
(Voice of Russia, March 7, 2008)
And this from the Russian Defense Ministry:
"The Defence Ministry of the Russian Federation has...reported that any notices from the military establishment of Uzbekistan about permitting the US to use the Uzbek airbase didn’t come to the Russian Defense Department.
"'It, maybe, was 'a trial balloon', a sort of probe,' said a spokesman of the Ministry, meaning the utterances of the representative of NATO."
(WarAndPeace.ru, March 7, 2008)
Later in March Simmons would repeat his plan for a NATO military buildup in the Caspian Sea, an Alliance complement to former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proposed Caspian Guard:
“Establishing a military-marine fleet in the Caspian is part of our co-operation with Central Asia and the Caucasus.
"It mostly deals with the defence of infrastructure in
"We are holding talks with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan with regards to the defence of energy facilities, and the issue of establishing a military-marine fleet remains open.”
(Trend News Agency, March 21, 2008)
Another Azerbaijani press source added "He said secure transportation of hydrocarbon resources to Europe is what NATO is concerned about."
(AzerTag, March 27, 2008)
The following month Simmons reprised his intentions, saying "the issue of protecting energy infrastructure belonging both to NATO members and their partners was on the agenda."
(The Financial [Georgia] April 5, 2008)
Later in April he was in Kazakhstan promoting the accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO and taunting Russia with "“Russia protested against the admitting of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into NATO as
well and the enlargement of the Alliance into the Balkan Peninsula. But, these countries became NATO member states.”
(Trend News Agency, April 12, 2008)
Not longer afterward in Georgia, Simmons met with the nation's State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili - the person who would help prepare the invasion of South Ossetia and a five-day war with Russia less than four months later - and in reference to a reported Russian overflight the minister said "If Georgia had been a member of the program, then NATO, not just Georgian radars would have registered the April 20 attack of the Russian fighter in Georgian air space and it's departure to Russian territory."
(Interfax, April 25, 2008)
This is no record that Simmons did anything other than nod willing agreement to the comments, especially with his statement that "I think it's fair to say that a number of allies believe that recent Russian actions, which we condemn, do call into question Russian neutrality as an arbitrator or facilitator of the [South Ossetian and Abkhazian peace] process."
(Associated Press, April 24, 2008)
While in the Georgian capital Simmons also consulted with the Georgian Defense Minister and the ambassadors of NATO member states in the nation and the "sides discussed the resources of NATO which can be used in the conflict zones to improve the peacekeeping process there."
(Rustavi 2, April 25, 2008)
That is to say, Commonwealth of Independent States-mandated peacekeepers must leave and be supplanted by NATO troops so that the US- and NATO-trained Georgian armed forces would have a free hand to invade Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania had finished three weeks earlier and Georgia's full membership bid had been held up for two reasons: Unresolved conflicts on its soil and foreign (non-NATO) troops in its presumed territory, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
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