Obama to send 'clear message' to Russia over neighbors

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has said that he wants to "reset" relations between Washington and an "increasingly assertive" Moscow.

"They're increasingly assertive. And when it comes to Georgia and their threats against their neighboring countries, I think they have been acting in a way that is contrary to international norms," Obama told NBC's Meet the Press.

"We want to cooperate with them where we can, and there are a whole host of areas particularly around nonproliferation of weapons and terrorism where we can cooperate, but we also have to send a clear message that they have to act in ways that are not bullying their neighbors," Obama went on.

The president-elect was relatively muted in his criticism of Moscow during Russia's August military conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia, and both Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have expressed hope that strained ties will improve once Obama takes office in January.

Both Georgia and Ukraine's bids to join NATO were derailed by Western European powers led by Germany and France last week during a meeting of foreign ministers from the military alliance's member states. They had received strong U.S. backing for their bid from the outgoing Bush administration.

On the issue of a planned U.S. missile shield for Central Europe, after Obama's election victory, one of his foreign policy advisers said the president-elect was not committed to the missile shield, and would only continue with the project if its effectiveness was proven.

Russia has claimed the shield, which would see 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and radar in the Czech Republic, is necessary to counter possible strikes from "rogue" states like Iran, while Russia says the bases would upset the strategic balance of forces in Europe and threaten national security.

Obama, who campaigned on a "change" ticket, has been criticized in some quarters for choosing Washington insiders for the new administration. As well as announcing that he will keep Robert Gates on as defense secretary, he has also declared former first lady Hillary Clinton as his choice for secretary of state.

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