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August 25, 08

NEWS / Georgia Crisis Raises Questions About Russian Policy, Rice Says

Georgia Crisis Raises Questions About Russian Policy, Rice Says

Military assault conflicts with Medvedev’s vision of partnership

By David I. McKeeby
Staff Writer

Washington -- Russia’s attack on Georgia does not represent the start of a “new Cold War,” says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but it does raise serious questions in Washington and other world capitals about the Kremlin’s future foreign policy path.

“What has happened in Georgia has caused us to step back and to want to look hard at whether Russia is really prepared to take a course that would lead it into further integration into the international community,” Rice told reporters August 20.

The Cold War is over, Rice said, and the world has profoundly changed since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then, Russia, the Soviet Union’s largest successor state, has benefited from a “path of cooperation” opened to it by the United States and the rest of the international community.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s July 2008 foreign policy strategy reflected this spirit of partnership, Rice said, highlighting Moscow’s aspirations to be rightfully recognized a major player in the global political, economic and security institutions shaping the 21st century. (See “Cooperation Often Overlooked in U.S.-Russian Relations.”)

“A different Russia was emerging,” Rice said. “One that has been cooperative with us in the war on terrorism, one that has been cooperative with us in terms of nuclear nonproliferation, cooperative in the Middle East, cooperative on North Korea, even cooperative on Iran.”

But Russia’s invasion of the emerging South Caucasus democracy -- launched one month after the release of Medvedev’s strategy -- has damaged the country’s reputation, Rice said, and appears to mark a shift from a shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace toward a desire to impose new dividing lines and spheres of influence in the region.
A protestor waves a Georgian flag
A protestor waves a Georgian flag at a passing Russian convoy outside Igoeti.

With each passing day, Russia is further compounding the damage to its international standing by repeatedly refusing to honor its own pledges to withdraw its forces from Georgian territory in accordance with a six-point truce brokered by the European Union. (See “Russia Will Not Be Allowed to Destabilize Europe, Rice Says.”)

“This is behavior that is not consistent with the statement that President Medvedev made just a few weeks ago about a modern Russia that would gain its respect in the world through its technology and its science and its culture,” Rice said. “You don’t gain that through beating up a small neighbor and then not keeping your word to the European presidency.”

The international community is taking notice and coming together to express its concerns about Russia’s actions, Rice said, from the diplomatic reactions of virtually all of Russia’s neighbors, to European mediation efforts, to the United Nations Security Council -- even if Russia’s veto continues to block effective U.N. action on Russia’s attack on Georgia.

In contrast to rising international pressure against Russia, very few countries have risen to defend Russia’s claim that their actions were linked to their role as peacekeepers. “The more the Russians say things like ‘We’re doing this as peacekeepers,’ the more ridiculous that sounds,” Rice said. “Peacekeepers don’t bomb civilian cities.”

“Russia is paying a price for what it has done,” Rice said. “But I would certainly hope that Russia is also assessing the damage that this has done to its ability to go on the course that President Medvedev outlined.”

“What will Russia have achieved?” Rice asked. “The civilian innocent lives that were taken cannot be brought back. It will have destroyed civilian infrastructure, which will be rebuilt. It will have damaged the Georgian military capability, which will be rebuilt. And it will have undermined its own reputation and credibility and called into question its suitability for the very institutions that it says it wants to be a part of.”

While world leaders have plenty of time to assess the long-term diplomatic impact of the Kremlin’s actions, Rice said, Georgia’s recovery is now a leading priority, as seen in the G7 finance ministers’ plan to support Georgia’s economic recovery and the 26-nation NATO alliance’s announcement of a new NATO-Georgia Commission to support humanitarian aid, reconstruction and security assistance. (See “NATO Strengthens Ties with Georgia.”)

“I think that the best rebuff to Russia will be when Georgia reemerges as economically strong and politically strong,” she said.

Source: http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2008/August/20080822103540idybeekcm0.5698053.html

Tags: secretary of state,


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