Reports continue to roll in of Russian tanks surrounding the Georgian city of Gori, far outside the disputed area of South Ossetia, while looting in Gori, destruction of Georgian naval vessels in Poti and violence continues across the troubled country.
Russia Rejects Georgian Sovereignty
In the clearest sign that Russia sees Georgia as property at it's disposal, Russia rejected the demands of Europeans and the U.S. for Russia to recognize the sovereignty of Georgia or make any reference to it in the already tattered peace plan negotiated by the French between Moscow and Tiblisi.
Advancing the war on words one notch further, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called U.S. and Georgian friendship a "special project" and suggested that the U.S. must "choose between the prestige of this relatively virtual project and partnership [with Russia] on questions that require collective action."
President Bush has directed Secretary of State Rice to travel first to France to discuss the matter with French President Sarkozy then on to Georgia. No plans are announced to travel to Moscow.
Before leaving on her trip Secretary Rice turned the Russian challenge on it's ear and reminded the Russians what THEY have at stake here and what might be the costs of their aggression.
The following is a series of excerpts from Secretary Rice's press conference:
Secretary Condoleezza RiceIt's the Russians who need to make a choice: either work with us for stability, peace, economic development and prosperity or return to your Cold War stance where isolation and economic stagnation will be the consequences of YOUR actions!
U.S. Department of State
August 13, 2008
SECRETARY RICE:...Russia engaged in activities that could not possibly be associated simply with the crisis in South Ossetia. Bombing civilian targets – bombing targets outside of the zone of conflict, some of which have civilian uses, the activities in Gori, the activities at Poti, destruction of Georgian infrastructure – these are hardly moves that are related to South Ossetia.
When you start bombing ports and threatening to bomb airfields and bombing a city like Gori and bringing troops in a flanking maneuver on the western flank of Georgia and tying up the main roads between Georgia – between Tbilisi and Gori, that’s well beyond anything that is needed to protect Russian peacekeepers. And that is why Russia is starting to face international condemnation for what it is doing.
This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it. Things have changed.
I really do believe that the Russians understand that they’re -- that pushing the envelope here would have significant consequences for Russia’s standing in the international system, which I think it already has had consequences for that, and for any future hopes that Russia might have to be fully integrated into the international system.
Russia has perhaps not accepted that it is time to move on from the Cold War and it is time to move to a new era in which relations between states are on the basis of equality and sovereignty and economic integration.
Now, Russia has said that that is the future that it wishes, that that is the future it wishes with the EU, that is the future it wishes with the United States and with any number of international organizations. So the message, unfortunately, that is being sent is that it is important to think again about whether, in fact, Russia will be committed to the kind of behavior that would make its involvement in those institutions appropriate.