Attacking Iran Because of South Ossetia
An editor I once worked for told me that when his parents and grandparents discussed the day's news over dinner, they would inevitably finish by asking each other: "Is it good for the Jews?"
"Whether it was a war or an earthquake or men landing on the moon, it would always come down to that," he recalled. "They saw everything through that lens."
This year, I've developed a comparable pathology. I am terrified that the Bush administration is going to attack Iran sometime before it leaves office on January 20. Whenever there is a new tremor in Washington or the wider world, I ask myself: Does this make an American strike against Iran more or less likely?
So it is with the recent dustup in Georgia. I fear it has increased the chances that the United States will bomb Iran.
If there is a single principle that underlies the Bush-Cheney view of the world, it is that all countries must accommodate American interests and none may be allowed to emerge as what the 2006 Quadrennial Defence Review called a "near-peer power". This is a recipe for conflict, since many countries will naturally try to increase their power whether or not the US wants them to.
"Let Hercules himself do what he may," that insightful geo-strategist William Shakespeare observed, "the cat will mew, and dog will have his day."
Russia's day is once again dawning. That is not necessarily bad. A multi-polar world shaped by balances and equilibrium is, in the end, safer and more secure for everyone.
This view, though, is abhorrent to the Bush administration. It remains caught in the post-cold war fantasy that America's brief “uni-polar moment” can last indefinitely.
In recent years, the Bush administration has sought at every turn to challenge Russian interests. It has worked to cut Russia out of energy pipelines, expand Nato up to Russia's borders, build missile defense bases near those borders, promote the independence of Kosovo and encourage former Soviet states like Georgia to spit in Russia's strategic eye.
This approach worked while Russia was prostrate. It was inevitable, though, that Russia would eventually begin to re-emerge as an influential power. Now it has.
Washington protested Russia's crushing of Georgia with howls of outrage. President Bush declared with a straight face that "bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
Mouthing such pious hypocrisy is about all the US can do to reverse Russia's recent gain. The US and Russia need to cooperate on a host of strategic issues, and Georgia is not a vital interest to the US. The logical thing for the US to do now would be to take this hit and move on.
President Bush and vice-president Cheney, however, may have another idea. I'm reading their minds, and this is what I fear they are thinking:
"We're on our way out of office. The way things look now, the last confrontation between us and the bad guys will have been one that they won. We can't let our term end that way. This can't be the last word. We have to go out in a blaze of glory. Where should we set off that blaze? Iran, of course. No country has taunted us more relentlessly. By bombing Iran, we will send the world a defiant farewell message: Forget Russia - We Still Rule!"
For years before the September 11 terror raids, a clique of millenarian ideologues in Washington had been urging a US attack on Iraq. The raids gave them their excuse. Now I fear the same may be happening with Iran. Georgia could be the excuse.
American policy toward Iran has for decades been shaped by emotion, not rationality. Emotions are now running hot in Washington. Iranians have nothing to do with the Russian invasion of Georgia. I hope they do not soon have to pay a bloody price for it.
America and the World 1990/91
Article preview: first 500 of 4,028 words total.
Summary: Thinking about post-Cold War US foreign policy has been led astray by three conventionally-accepted but mistaken assumptions about the character of the post-Cold War environment (1) that the world is now multipolar, whereas it is in fact unipolar, with the USA the sole superpower, at least for present policy purposes (2) that the US domestic consensus favours internationalism rather than isolationism (3) that in consequence of the Soviet collapse, the threat of war has substantially diminished.
Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author's Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.
Ever since it became clear that an exhausted Soviet Union was calling off the Cold War, the quest has been on for a new American role in the world. Roles, however, are not invented in the abstract; they are a response to a perceived world structure. Accordingly, thinking about post-Cold War American foreign policy has been framed by several conventionally accepted assumptions about the shape of the post-Cold War environment.
First, it has been assumed that the old bipolar world would beget a multipolar world with power dispersed to new centers in Japan, Germany (and/or "Europe"), China and a diminished Soviet Union/Russia. Second, that the domestic American consensus for an internationalist foreign policy, a consensus radically weakened by the experience in Vietnam, would substantially be restored now that policies and debates inspired by "an inordinate fear of communism" could be safely retired. Third, that in the new post-Soviet strategic environment the threat of war would be dramatically diminished.
All three of these assumptions are mistaken. The immediate post-Cold War world is not multipolar. It is unipolar. The center of world power is the unchallenged superpower, the United States, attended by its Western allies. Second, the internationalist consensus is under renewed assault. The assault this time comes not only from the usual pockets of post-Vietnam liberal isolationism (e.g., the churches) but from a resurgence of 1930s-style conservative isolationism. And third, the emergence of a new strategic environment, marked by the rise of small aggressive states armed with weapons of mass destruction and possessing the means to deliver them (what might be called Weapon States), makes the coming decades a time of heightened, not diminished, threat of war.
The most striking feature of the post-Cold War world is its unipolarity. No doubt, multipolarity will come in time. In perhaps another generation or so there will be great powers coequal with the United States, and the world will, in structure, resemble the pre-World War I era. But we are not there yet, nor will we be for decades. Now is the unipolar moment.
There is today no lack of second-rank powers. Germany and Japan are economic dynamos. Britain and France can deploy diplomatic and to some extent military assets. The Soviet Union possesses several elements of power-military, diplomatic and political-but all are in rapid decline. There is but one first-rate power and no prospect in the immediate future of any power to rival it.
Only a few months ago it was conventional wisdom that the new rivals, the great pillars of the new multipolar world, would be Japan and Germany (and/or Europe). How quickly a myth can explode. The notion that economic power inevitably translates into geopolitical influence is a materialist illusion. Economic power is a necessary condition for great power status. But it certainly is not sufficient, as has been made clear by the recent behavior of Germany and Japan, which have generally hidden under the table since the first shots rang out in Kuwait. And while a unified Europe ...
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A £2.2bn pipeline that will deliver a million barrels of crude oil a day to the Mediterranean Sea, and is set to become a vital gateway for central Asian energy resources to the west, opened yesterday.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline will run for 1,100 miles from the Azerbaijani capital, through Georgia to the Turkish port, and through two of the most politically turbulent countries in the region.
Washington, uncomfortable at its reliance on oil from the Middle East, has long sought the BTC as a bridge for the massive energy resources of Kazakhstan, a country the size of western Europe.
The pipeline has stoked controversy on several fronts.
Apart from the environmental hazards (it passes close to a national park in Georgia and traverses highly seismic landscape throughout its route), the pipeline has brought western powers into partnership with governments with suspect human rights records.
Presidents Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan, Ahmet Sezer of Turkey, Mikhail Saakashvilli of Georgia and Kazakhstan's Nursaltan Nazarbayev attended the inauguration ceremony yesterday at the Sangachal terminal, 25 miles south of Baku.
They were joined by the US energy secretary, Samuel Bodnam, and Lord Browne, head of British Petroleum, the largest shareholder in the project, with a 30.1% stake.
Mr Aliev opened the tap permitting the first oil into his country's section of the pipeline, named after his father, Heydar Aliev, whom he succeeded after an election marred by violence and fraud allegations. His government has a 25% stake in the project that he expects to help the economy grow by 18%.
"Some doubted the feasibility of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project, while others tried to raise obstacles," Interfax quoted him as saying. "The union of Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and the United States ... made this a reality."
Oil from the pipeline is not expected at the Turkish port of Ceyhan until August 15, and will supply 1% of global demand. Many analysts see greater potential for the BTC as a conduit for central Asian oil, principally from Kazakhstan. Mr Nazarbayev unveiled plans this week to link the western Kazakh oil port of Aktau to the BTC.
The Bush administration first recognised the pipeline's potential in May 2001, when an energy policy review spearheaded by the vice-president, Dick Cheney, said the Kashagan oilfield in Kazakhstan was capable of exporting 2.6m barrels a day if pipelines like the BTC were operational.
The report recommended Mr Bush to order the departments of state and energy to "establish the commercial conditions" to facilitate Kazakh exports via the BTC. Since then the US has increased its military assistance to the authoritarian Mr Aliev, while at the same time supporting a pro-western revolution in Georgia.
"This is confirmation of American double-standards - supporting regimes that are authoritarian, but part of their energy package," said the analyst Lilya Shevtsova of the Carnegie Endowment, in Moscow. She said the BTC also gave Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan independence from Russia, upon whose pipelines they had previously relied to export their oil.
The move away from the Russian pipelines will also benefit Washington, which is keen to immunise its energy supplies from possible friction with Russia and Iran.
The US is also expected to increase its military presence in Azerbaijan, which will further rile Moscow.
But in the town of Vyskov in southern Moravia, in the Czech Republic, the locals are scared of what Nato membership might mean for them.
The former Warsaw pact military base at Brezina just outside the town has seen better days, but may be about to gain a new purpose as a result of September 11.
Sarin gas, anthrax, cyanide and smallpox are some of the terrifying reasons that the base could soon be invaluable to the Americans and Nato.
With the US intent on radically transforming the alliance by cherrypicking the best of the skills that existing members and newcomers can offer, Czech expertise in the growth industry of chemical and biological weapons is seen as the country's prize military asset.
In addition to fielding a company specialising in NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical weapons) protection which has been working with the Americans in Kuwait for much of the past year, the Czechs are also offering Nato the use of the Brezina base for NBC training.
"People have no reason to be afraid of anything," the Czech defence minister, Jaroslav Tvrdik, told the Prague media after locals voiced fears about germ warfare being practised at what would be the sole such Nato facility in Europe.
When Nato grows from 19 to 26 members at a summit in Prague on Thursday, the hosts will seek to impress the Americans and advance their usefulness to the alliance by putting on a display of the skills of the Czech NBC unit.
Not incorrectly, the Czechs are calculating that specialisation is the future for Nato as it struggles to reinvent itself in a strategic environment transformed by the American war on terrorism.
The Bush administration has made it plain that Nato is moribund when it comes to waging war and that it will opt for ad hoc coalitions depending on the military campaign.
Its vision for Nato resembles a multinational a la carte menu where members serve up their speciality dishes to the discerning American diner.
Stephen Hadley, the White House's deputy national security adviser, told a conference last month that Nato had to find the funds and the will to build and use new capabilities.
"Some nations will need greater specialisation within their militaries. In some areas some nations will need to pool their capabilities," he said. "Few nations will possess all these capabilities, but every nation should be prepared to develop some of them."
The seven east European countries being admitted to the alliance this week bring little in the way of traditional military assets or budgets.
With a combined population of six million, the three Baltic states and Slovenia are too small for military largesse.
The Balkan states of Romania and Bulgaria are broke, corrupt, and their armed forces have atrophied. The other newcomer, Slovakia, fondly imagines it can reinvigorate its once sizeable military industries by joining Nato.
But the Pentagon views the new members' utility for their narrow capabilities - sniffer dogs from the Baltic states, a mountain combat unit from the Slovenes, while the Romanians can muster their Red Scorpion combat battalion which has been serving with the Americans in Kandahar in Afghanistan.
These are extremely limited assets of questionable value to the US military juggernaut.
But the alliance's expansion is fundamentally an American political project which extends security and stability in Europe and brings geographical assets - particularly in the Balkans - useful for the projection of US power in the Middle East and central Asia. Besides, the east Europeans are more pro-American than the west Europeans these days.
The expansion also helps Washington secure their markets and weak democracies and puts Nato on the fringe of the strategic Caspian oil basin.
"It's a political decision made in May last year when the Bush White House decided on a big bang expansion," said Klaus Becher, a German security analyst.
September 11 reinforced the US push to expand Nato, a policy enjoying only lukewarm support in western Europe.
But even before the al-Qaida attacks, George Bush signalled in a speech in Warsaw in June last year that he favoured extending Nato to the Baltic and the Black Sea.
The past 15 months have seen the Americans setting up bases along a 2,000-mile arc from the Black Sea almost to China's northern border. For the first time US troops are in Bulgaria, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Cheek by jowl with the cheap beach resorts that not so long ago were the communist world's answer to the Costa del Sol sits Camp Sarafovo, a little slice of the American midwest perched on Bulgaria's Black Sea coast.
In the post-war era, the Red Army never set foot there - even when Bulgaria was dubbed the Soviet Union's 16th republic.
But in the past year, several hundred US troops have established themselves at Camp Sarafovo, making it a small but valuable piece of the global jigsaw that enables the Americans to project their military muscle.
The Americans at Camp Sarafovo have been servicing the large US Air Force Stratotanker refuelling aircraft operating out of nearby Burgas airport for the campaign in Afghanistan.
The operation was shifted to Bulgaria from Greece and Turkey.
No one doubts that when it comes to war in Iraq, the USAF will again make the most of its new strategic ally in south-east Europe and use Bulgaria as a rear base to help with the 'regime change' in Baghdad.
"If there is a military plan for the Bulgarian armed forces to support the US against Saddam Hussein, there are very probable places on the Black Sea," says Plamen Pantev, a Bulgarian security analyst. "The Romanians have also suggested concrete forms of support for US strikes and they have the Constanta base also on the Black Sea."
MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia expressed its fury Friday over US plans to place a new missile system in eastern Europe, saying it was clear the weapons were pointed at Moscow and would be a fair military target to strike.
Speaking at a news conference in southern Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev stated that, despite Washington's denials, the United States had Russia in mind in basing elements of the system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
"The deployment of new missile defence facilities in Europe is aimed against the Russian Federation," Medvedev said at a news conference in the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi following talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
His comments came a day after Poland, after appearing reticent on the plan in recent months, suddenly announced it had reached an accord with the United States on plans to install US interceptor missiles on its territory.
The timing of that announcement, coming amid a burgeoning international crisis over the conflict between Russia and Georgia in the Caucasus, sparked a bellicose response from the Russian military.
In agreeing to host elements of the US system, "Poland is making itself a target" for the Russian military, Interfax news agency quoted General Anatoly Nogovitsyn as saying Friday.
"This is 100 percent" certain, he said, stressing that as a point of military principle such installations "are destroyed as a first priority" in the event of an armed conflict.
The Russian general said separately at a briefing for journalists that the US push to conclude the deal with Poland was causing serious damage to relations with Russia.
"It's a pity that when we are still faced with a most complicated situation to work on, the United States is further aggravating the situation in relations with Russia" with the Poland missile deal, Nogovitsyn said.
The United States has consistently said that the planned missile system is conceived to defend against what Washington terms "rogue states" such as Iran, whose ballistic missile potential is reported to be growing.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has dismissed Russia's concerns that it is the real target of the system as "ludicrous" and said Friday that she looked forward to signing the deal with Poland.
"I hope to go very soon to sign it," Rice told journalists aboard her plane as she travelled to the Georgian capital Tbilisi, where she held emergency talks on the crisis with President Mikheil Saakashvili.
The US plans call for positioning of a powerful tracking radar in the Czech Republic to function in tandem with 10 interceptor missiles based in Poland.
Russia has repeatedly proposed schemes that would give it a role in the system alongside the United States and other partners, including offering the use of a Russian radar facility in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan.
The United States has said it is open to allowing Russia to play a role in the system, but in practice Washington reacted coolly to the Azerbaijan offer and has not encouraged Russian participation.
Analysts say Russia's military incursion over the past week into Georgia was triggered in part by Moscow's frustration at not being able to stop the missile plan and the enlargement of the US-led NATO military alliance.
"Russia was ignored" by the United States for years on a wide range of security issues, Maria Lipman, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, said this week.
After failing to persuade Washington through rhetoric to heed its interests on these issues, Moscow felt backed into a corner and decided it was time to show that "Russia is strong and Russia has to be reckoned with," she said.
Who got Georgia into
Actions by Bush and McCain misled the country
into thinking the U.S. would come to its aid.
The Los Angeles Times
August 14, 2008
The Georgians have now been punished enough, declared Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday. Or maybe not. At press time, Russian tanks were reportedly rolling through the Georgian city of Gori, in violation of a cease-fire agreement. So there could be more punishment in store for the Georgians, who were stupid enough to imagine that if they picked a fight with Russia over the disputed region of South Ossetia, Uncle Sam would come riding to their rescue.
Puh-lease. Haven't the Georgians noticed that we're sort of busy in Afghanistan and Iraq? That even if we had any available troops, we're not going to get involved in a shooting war with Russia, which has the world's second-largest nuclear arsenal? That we have no other forms of leverage over Russia these days?
So where did the Georgians get the silly idea that the U.S. would bail them out?
Maybe from John McCain, Republican heir apparent, whose top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, also just happens to be a highly paid lobbyist for the Georgian government. Whoops -- correction! Scheunemann usedto be a highly paid lobbyist for Georgia. The McCain campaign says Scheunemann hasn't taken a dime from the Georgians since May 15. (Which is lucky for the Georgians, who are going to need all the spare cash they can get to rebuild all the stuff the Russians just bombed.)
According to the Washington Post, the relationship between Scheunemann and Georgia used to be very cozy (not to mention lucrative for Scheunemann). Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, while Scheunemann was also a paid McCain advisor, "Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees."
And what did Georgia get in return? Well, no troops, that's for sure. But they got Scheunemann's (expensive) pledge to garner U.S. support for Georgia's admission to NATO and for its claims to South Ossetia, and his commitment to use his ties to politicians such as McCain to advance Georgia's causes. McCain has sponsored legislation supporting Georgia's claims over South Ossetia, an issue on which he was lobbied by Scheunemann's firm. And as recently as mid-April, Scheunemann was simultaneously taking money from Georgia and actively preparing McCain for supportive calls with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Is it any wonder that Saakashvili concluded that he had the backing of the U.S. Republican power structure when it came to South Ossetia?
But Scheunemann and McCain aren't the only ones who irresponsibly encouraged the Georgians to think that baiting the Russians was going to work out for them.
President Bush shares the blame. Once he stopped swooning over the soulfulness of "Vladimir's" baby blues, Bush seemed intent on showing Putin and other Russian leaders that he no longer gave a damn. The Bush administration supported the "color revolutions" in Russia's backyard and denounced antidemocratic crackdowns in Russia -- while making excuses for "friendly" authoritarian regimes elsewhere. The administration also virtually shut down extensive multi-issue dialogues with Russia that had been maintained by previous administrations, hammering in the message that we didn't care much about good relations with Moscow.
The administration also aggressively pushed policies that couldn't have been better designed to enrage the Russians. At the April NATO summit in Romania, Bush urged a fast track to NATO membership for Georgia. Th U.S. also insisted this summer on the deployment of an almost certainly useless missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, virtually on Moscow's doorstep.
Meanwhile, the administration singled out Georgia for the "Our Best Buddy in the Caucasus" award. The U.S. has supported the development of gas and oil pipelines running through Georgia that will challenge Russia's regional economic hegemony, and provided the fledgling Georgian republic generous economic and military aid, including an overhaul of its forces. In return, Georgia sent 2,000 troops to Iraq, and the administration pretended to be deaf when Georgian politicians crowed that their newly improved military would be perfect for teaching those pesky South Ossetian separatists a lesson.
But it's all gone disastrously wrong for our best buddies, and we're sitting on the sidelines, offering empty reassurances to the Georgians and empty threats to the Russians.
Moscow will stop pummeling Georgia when it decides the Georgians have truly been punished enough. And this being the real world, punishment will rain down on the pawns -- but those who egged them on (to score political points, seek power or gain profit) will, of course, face no punishment at all.
backing of Kosovo independence will
strain already testy relations with Russia
The Associated Press
February 17, 2008
PRISTINA, Kosovo: American flags flutter almost everywhere in Kosovo, a symbol of how — through successive Democratic and Republican administrations — the U.S. has long been a friend of this nation in the making.
But Washington's stalwart support of statehood in recent months in the face of fierce resistance from Russia has raised the stakes in its increasingly testy relations with a Kremlin increasingly eager to shore up its influence among its former Soviet vassal states.
By backing Kosovo's independence outside the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. and its European allies have taken a calculated risk. They are betting that the turbulent Balkans will not plunge into violence and unrest.
If it does, the White House will take much of the blame. Reflecting the concern, President George W. Bush said Sunday that the U.S. will work to prevent violence.
"Moscow is convinced that it holds the moral high ground and will live to see yet another Western 'blunder' on par with Iraq," said Oksana Antonenko, a Russia expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank.
"If violence returns to Kosovo, Russia and the West will blame each other, worsening general relations," Atonenko warned. The world is watching she said, to see if "Kosovo will be an exception — that independence will bring stability and rule of law, not chaos and insecurity."
Russia is a traditional ally of Serbia, but that's not the only reason why it vehemently opposes Kosovo's independence. The Kremlin contends it will set a dangerous precedent for secessionist movements across the former Soviet Union, including Chechnya and Georgia.
The confrontation over Kosovo could harden Russia's resolve on the other disputes that have brought ties to a post-Cold War low. While analysts say Russia is unlikely to restrict energy supplies to the West in response to recognition of the province, ignoring Russia's concerns could make Moscow less cooperative on crucial issues such as Iran's nuclear program.
Russia could also launch aggressive moves on ex-Soviet territory, such as recognizing the independence claims of breakaway regions in Georgia or even encouraging violent resistance to NATO membership in Ukraine.
The U.S. is not deliberately trying to provoke Russia, but Washington sees no way around supporting Kosovo independence, said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow for Europe studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"There's no question that Kosovo will serve as an irritant between Russia and the U.S., but there won't be a sudden outburst of shock," he said. "Both sides are trying to prevent an open rift."
Washington also appears eager to support the independence of predominantly Muslim — but largely secular — Kosovo to help bridge the gulf with the Islamic world and to show how democracy can work in a Muslim country.
Russia and the U.S. already are at odds over Washington's plans to station a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. says the interceptor rockets are designed to counter a threat from the Middle East, but the Kremlin contends the real purpose is to weaken Russia.
The U.S., meanwhile, is rankled at recent rhetoric from President Vladimir Putin suggesting that Russia could aim nuclear missiles at Ukraine if the former Soviet republic joins NATO.
"It's a relationship that's been going downhill pretty much since 2002," said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and a senior specialist on Russia for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
And both sides, Pifer said, share the blame.
"Both sides are having a hard time seeing how they can engage in a constructive manner," he said. "I don't see anyone in Washington who wants to have a more difficult relationship with the Russians."
Progress in that relationship, Pifer said, probably will have to wait until next month's presidential elections in Russia and the U.S. election in November.
Kupchan believes the U.S. would have preferred to shepherd independence through the U.N. Security Council, but Moscow made that impossible by threatening to use its veto.
He and others say the next best thing will be a robust round of official recognitions from as many nations as possible, which will help vindicate the U.S. and key allies in the eyes of a wary world. A flurry of recognitions was expected from Monday's meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium.
Independence doesn't mean the U.S. and Europe can disengage from Kosovo, where 16,000 NATO-led troops — including about 1,000 Americans — still keep the peace.
Countdown to Crawford: The Last
Days of the Bush Administration
Russia: ‘Bullying and
intimidation are not acceptable’;
Words said with a straight face
The Los Angeles Times
August 15, 2008
George W. Bush in Rose Garden giving a warning to Russia
Photo: Ron Edmonds/Associated Press
President Bush delivered yet one more tough warning to Russia today over the crisis in Georgia: "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
He spoke in the Rose Garden in a hastily-announced appearance just before heading off on what is scheduled to be a two-week holiday at his home in Crawford, Texas.
With little leverage available to him — and only modest steps to match his angry words — Bush has taken to the White House bully pulpit as a means of trying to exert pressure on the Kremlin.
The tensions in the Caucasus flared into war eight days ago between Georgia and Russia, which has backed rebels in the breakaway South Ossetia region of Georgia. Bush was in Beijing at the time, attending the opening days of the Summer Olympics.
Since he returned to Washington on Monday, he has met several times with national security officials, dispatched U.S. military forces to Georgia to carry humanitarian assistance and sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region.
But most visibly, he has made three public statements — all in the Rose Garden — to deliver no-nonsense messages to Moscow, and demonstrate a very public stance of opposition to the Russian invasion. And he postponed by one day his departure for Texas.
The situation has put Bush in the position at the end of his presidency — marked for the past five years by the U.S. war in Iraq — of conducting an angry face-off with Russia over its invasion of a country on its border.
"With its action in recent days, Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world," the president said.
In his statement, he sent this message to Russia:
A contentions relationship with Russia is not in America's interest. And a contentious relationship with America is not in Russia's interest.
Seeking to explain the rationale for the U.S. support of Georgia, the president said Georgia has a democratically elected government, its "sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected," it has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the U.S. mission, and it has "sought to join the free institutions of the West."
"Georgia has become a courageous democracy," Bush said, adding later: "The people of Georgia have cast their lot with the free world, and we will not cast them aside."
For the White House transcript of the president's remarks, see below.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
August 15, 2008
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE SITUATION IN GEORGIA
Rose Garden, 8:13 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I've just received an update from my national security team on the situation in Georgia. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Tbilisi. She's conferring with President Saakashvili and expressing America's wholehearted support for Georgia's democracy.
She will be traveling to Crawford, where I will meet her and she will bring me up to date on what she has seen and what she heard in Georgia, as well as in Paris -- I mean, in France. She did not go to Paris. Secretary of Defense Gates will keep me briefed on the humanitarian assistance to the people of Georgia. We're working closely with our partners in Europe and other members of the G7 to bring a resolution to this crisis.
The United States and our allies stand with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government. Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory.
Some Americans listening today may wonder why events taking place in a small country halfway around the world matter to the United States. In the years since it's gained independence after the Soviet Union's collapse, Georgia has become a courageous democracy. Its people are making the tough choices that are required of free societies. Since the Rose Revolution in 2003, the Georgian people have held free elections, opened up their economy, and built the foundations of a successful democracy.
Georgia has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to help others achieve the liberty that they struggled so hard to attain. To further strengthen their democracy, Georgia has sought to join the free institutions of the West. The people of Georgia have cast their lot with the free world, and we will not cast them aside.
Georgia's emergence as a young democracy has been part of an inspiring and hopeful new chapter in Europe's history. Europe has moved beyond the world wars that killed millions of people, and the Cold War that divided its citizens between two superpowers. Every administration since the end of the Cold War has worked with European partners to extend the reach of liberty and prosperity. And now, for the first time in memory, Europe is becoming a continent that is whole, free, and at peace.
Unfortunately, Russia has tended to view the expansion of freedom and democracy as a threat to its interests. The opposite is true: Free and prosperous societies on Russia's borders will advance Russia's interests by serving as sources of stability and economic opportunity.
We hope Russia's leaders will recognize that a future of cooperation and peace will benefit all parties. The Cold War is over. The days of satellite states and spheres of influence are behind us. A contentious relationship with Russia is not in America's interest. And a contentious relationship with America is not in Russia's interest.
With its actions in recent days Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world. Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century. Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations, or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation. To begin to repair its relations with the United States and Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors.
END, 8:17 A.M. EDT