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ESTONIAN PRESIDENT WARNS RUSSIA ABOUT SECURITY. Speaking in Tallinn on November 28, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said that he and visiting U.S. President George W. Bush agree that "one of [their] main messages was the message of freedom to those states who, like us, have chosen the way to democracy and freedom, and not to bow to any pressure from their neighbors," international media reported. Ilves added that "by these states, we mean Georgia, Ukraine, and the Balkan states. We should not hesitate to support these states, we should not falter when any of our allies are losing hope and faith, and we will help them in every way we can." Referring to Georgia, Ilves said that "we sincerely hope that Russia will understand that a democratic state on its borders is not a danger to Russian security. And we hope that Russia will understand that authoritarian states at its borders will not guarantee its own stability." Bush praised Estonia's efforts in "sharing its democratic experience with other nations...from Georgia to Moldova to Ukraine." A few hours later in Riga, Bush said that "as members of NATO you [Baltic states] are a vital part of the most effective multilateral organization in the world and the most important military alliance in history. As NATO allies, you will never again stand alone in defense of your freedom and you will never be occupied by a foreign power." He added that "we're also working with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council. We recognize that Russia is a vital and important country, and that it's in our interest to increase our cooperation with Russia in areas such as countering terrorism and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction." PM

IS AN 'ENERGY NATO' IN THE OFFING? Speaking on the margins of the Riga NATO summit on November 28, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (Republican, Indiana), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the Atlantic alliance should assist under its Article 5 mutual defense clause any member whose energy supplies are threatened, the "International Herald Tribune" reported on November 29. He argued that Article 5 was designed to thwart the "coercion" of any member state as well as a direct attack on one. He stressed that the alliance should determine what it will do "if Poland, Latvia, or another member state is threatened as Ukraine was" during its January 2006 gas crisis. At that time, Polish leaders called on consumers to form an "energy NATO" to protect their interests against pressure and "blackmail" by Moscow (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 6, 9, and 20, and October 31, 2006). Polish Ambassador to Germany Marek Prawda, however, spoke in Riga on November 28 against invoking Article 5 and called instead for setting up a European energy-security framework. Some Czech experts at that meeting said that NATO should play an increased role in energy-security matters but stressed that the practical implications should be carefully thought through. Like Ambassador Prawda, some Czech participants said that invoking Article 5 in an energy dispute could ultimately weaken NATO's effectiveness in military-security matters. Lugar replied that it is crucial to develop alternative energy supply routes and sources as soon as possible. Britain's "The Guardian" wrote on November 29 that Russia's "cutting off gas supplies to...Ukraine in the dead of winter [was] an illegitimate instrument of intimidation. Beyond Russia's 'near abroad,' [President Vladimir] Putin combines measures to increase Europe's dependency on Russian supplies with reminders that Asia provides an alternative outlet. The idea is that Europe should take the hint and avoid disagreement with Moscow -- a form of diplomatic self-policing known [in Cold War days] as 'Finlandization.'" The paper added that "European diplomacy should be aimed at [encouraging] Russian policy live up to their obligations under the Energy Charter treaty and end their pipeline monopoly by signing the transit protocol. Otherwise, Europe will single-mindedly pursue a policy of energy independence by diversifying its energy mix, improving efficiency, and building the supply infrastructure needed to access non-Russian sources.... It is not 'Russophobic' to oppose the hegemonic ambitions of the Kremlin." PM

BELARUSIAN, UKRAINIAN, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENTS AGREE TO DEVELOP ENERGY COOPERATION. President Lukashenka discussed cooperation in the energy sphere with his Ukrainian and Azerbaijani counterparts, Viktor Yushchenko and Ilham Aliyev, on the sidelines of the CIS summit in Minsk on November 28, Belapan and Interfax reported. Yushchenko reportedly said that oil-rich Azerbaijan could use Ukraine's pipelines to supply Belarusian oil refineries with crude oil, whereas Belarus and Ukraine could agree on rates for the transit of Russian gas through their territories. Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan and Belarus have a big potential in energy cooperation, adding that the two countries should continue talks about Belarus's possible participation in oil extraction in Azerbaijan. JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT CALLS SOVIET-ERA FAMINE GENOCIDE. Following a heated debate, 233 deputies of the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada on November 28 voted to declare the man-made famine in Ukraine in 1932-33 (Holodomor) as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian media reported. A relevant bill submitted by President Viktor Yushchenko and somewhat reworded by parliamentary speaker Oleksandr Moroz was supported by lawmakers of Our Ukraine, the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc, the Socialist Party, and two legislators from the ruling Party of Regions. In order to make the bill passable, Moroz proposed the removal of a provision that would have made it a crime to deny the Holodomor took place. Moroz also proposed that the bill's original formulation "genocide of the Ukrainian nation" be replaced with "genocide of the Ukrainian people," thus blunting the implication that the Holodomor singled out ethnic Ukrainians as the principal victims. Lawmakers from the Party of Regions and the Communist Party opposed the bill during the debate and most of them did not take part in the voting, arguing that the bill would worsen relations between Ukraine and Russia by suggesting that through the Holodomor Moscow intended to wipe out the Ukrainians as a nation. As many as 10 million Ukrainians may have died in the famine provoked by the Soviet leadership under Josef Stalin in a bid to force peasants to give up their land and join collective farms. JM