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Rice to Russia: Stop playing 'dangerous game'

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  • NEW: In Brussels Monday, Condoleezza Rice presses Russia to pull back
  • U.S. Secretary of State is at emergency session of NATO foreign ministers
  • Rice says Russia's recent actions are not "cost-free"
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BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- Russia is playing "dangerous games" by reasserting its military power in Georgia and in other areas, such as bombing flights skirting American airspace, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday.

Russian soldiers sit atop their armored vehicle near the Georgian army base Monday.

Rice arrived in Brussels late Monday for an emergency session with foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Council, the policymaking arm of the NATO alliance.

The United States has backed Georgia for membership in the alliance, and Rice said the conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic has shown only that Moscow "can use overwhelming regional military power to beat up on a small neighbor."

"Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool it has always used when it wishes to deliver a message, and that's its military power," she told reporters en route to Belgium. "That's not the way to deal in the 21st century."

She called other displays of Russian power -- such as its 2007 decision to resume regular strategic bomber patrols over the North Sea, the Arctic and the Pacific Ocean -- "a very dangerous game and perhaps one the Russians want to reconsider."

In the past two years, Russia's Soviet-era turboprop bombers have skirted the Alaskan shoreline, flown low over the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the western Pacific and past the coast of Guam, a strategic U.S. territory in the South Pacific.

"This is not something that is just cost-free," Rice said. "Nobody needs Russian strategic aviation along America's coasts. So this effort to somehow assert Russian power or influence by military means is something that we've been seeing for a while."

Rice said NATO ministers are expected to discuss what the alliance can do to support Georgia and "deny Russia's strategic objectives," which she said included undermining the government of Georgia's pro-Western leader, Mikheil Saakashvili.

She said ministers also will discuss what to do to support states on Russia's borders that have already joined NATO, including Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. She said discussion will also focus on how to prevent Moscow from drawing a "new line" between those nations and Georgia and Ukraine, which are seeking membership in the alliance.

Rice said Russia has damaged its standing with the West by intervening in Georgia over the Russian-backed separatist region of South Ossetia, the flash point for the conflict that erupted August 7.

"Frankly, Russia can't have it both ways," she said. "It can't act in the way it did when it was the Cold War and it was the Soviet Union and expect to be treated as a responsible partner." Video Watch more on the crisis »

Rice will also go to Warsaw to sign a formal agreement with Poland to base ballistic missile interceptors there -- another move, along with the eastward expansion of NATO, that has angered Moscow.

The United States says a missile-defense system is aimed at preventing missile attacks from rogue states such as Iran, not at blunting Russia's nuclear deterrent. But the Russians say the agreement is clearly aimed at them, a highly placed source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told CNN.

Rice said her visit will show that "the kind of language Russia uses about Poland isn't tolerable."

"When people reach out a hand of friendship, it's really not responsible language to threaten them with nuclear attack, as apparently some unnamed Russian general apparently did," she said.

Rice has also made stops in Paris, France, and the Georgian capital Tbilisi during her European trip, which was spurred by the Georgian crisis. She also plans to meet with the leadership of the European Union, which is also based in Brussels.

Finland's Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, representing the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, was in Brussels to meet with representatives from the European Union, NATO and the United Nations. He met Monday with Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, whose country holds the presidency of the U.N. Security Council.

The OSCE is working on a plan to increase its observers in the region to 100 people, and Stubb will meet with Rice and take part in the NATO meeting Tuesday. One humanitarian watchdog, Human Rights Watch, said Monday there has been "mounting evidence that Russian and Georgian military used armed force unlawfully during the South Ossetian conflict."

"Ongoing militia attacks and a growing humanitarian crisis also indicate the urgent need for the deployment of a mission to enhance civilian protection," the Human Rights Watch said in a report. Rachel Denber, Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia deputy director, said the conflict "has been a disaster for civilians."

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The group called on the EU to "deploy a robust European Defense Agency mission consisting of police and security forces to ensure protection of civilians and the return of displaced persons to their homes."

It suggested that the OSCE send a special envoy to the region and the United Nations should consider sending a fact-finding mission.

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