Putin: Russia will answer NATO ships in Black Sea

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Russia will respond calmly to an increase in NATO ships in the Black Sea in the aftermath of the short war with Georgia, but promised that “there will be an answer.”

Meanwhile, President Dmitry Medvedev warned the West that it would lose more than Moscow would if it tried to punish Russia with sanctions over the war with Georgia.

Russia has repeatedly complained that NATO has too many warships in the Black Sea. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Tuesday that currently there are two U.S., one Polish, one Spanish and one German ship there.

“We don't understand what American ships are doing on the Georgian shores, but this is a question of taste, it's a decision by our American colleagues,” Putin said. “The second question is why the humanitarian aid is being delivered on naval vessels armed with the newest rocket systems.”

Russia's reaction to NATO ships “will be calm, without any sort of hysteria. But of course, there will be an answer,” Interfax quoted Putin as saying during a visit to Uzbekistan.

Asked by exactly what measures Russia would take in response to NATO ships in the Black Sea, Putin was quoted as answering, “You'll see.”

As if to emphasize the country's strength – its control over a growing percentage of European energy supplies – Putin traveled to Uzbekistan to announce a deal that would tighten Russia's hand on Central Asian energy exports to the West.

In an interview with Italy's RAI television broadcast Tuesday, Medvedev said that Russia doesn't fear expulsion from the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.

“The G-8 will be practically unable to function without Russia, because it can make decisions only if they reflect the opinion of top global economies and leading political players of the world,” Medvedev said. “That's why we don't fear being expelled from the G-8.”

Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is among those who called for Russia's expulsion from the elite club of the world's richest countries.

Medvedev also warned that NATO would suffer more than Russia if its ties with Moscow were severed.

“We don't see anything dramatic or difficult about suspending our relations if that's the wish of our partners,” he said. “But I think that our partners will lose more from that.”