The West must stand up to "bullying" by Moscow, which is becoming increasingly authoritarian and aggressive, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a speech highly critical of Russia on Thursday.
In her first major address on Russia since its incursion into Georgia last month, Rice said Moscow had taken a "dark turn" that left its global standing worse than at any time since 1991, when it emerged from the fall of the Soviet Union, the Reuters reported.
Rice, a former Soviet expert who has presided over a steady deterioration of relations with Russia, said Moscow's invasion of Georgia was part of a pattern that included its use of oil and natural gas as a political weapon, the suspension of a treaty on conventional forces in Europe and a threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons.
"The picture emerging from this pattern of behaviour is that of a Russia increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad," Rice said in the speech to the German Marshall Fund.
The United States and Europe must not allow Russian actions in Georgia to achieve any benefit, she said. "Our strategic goal now is to make it clear to Russia's leaders that their choices are putting Russia on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance."
Moscow was internationally condemned for sending troops to Georgia to stop Tbilisi's attempt to reassert control over the pro-Russian, separatist region of South Ossetia.
Moscow later recognized South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent states, and on Wednesday signed treaties to protect them from Georgian attack.
The Kremlin said it had a moral duty to defend the regions against what it called "genocide" by Georgia's military.
But some political analysts have said Russia's actions heighten the risk of Moscow attempting to exert more influence over other former Soviet territories, particularly Ukraine.