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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Russian Occupation of Georgia Continues Despite New Agreement to Withdraw

Secretary Rice Reports to President Bush After Visit to Georgia

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President Bush Discusses Situation in Georgia
Prairie Chapel Ranch
Crawford, Texas
White House transcript
August 16, 2008

...I want to thank Secretary of State Rice for her trip, and thank you for coming back here to Crawford to give me a firsthand briefing.

She went to Tbilisi, met with President Saakashvili and his team. And during that time, the President signed the six-point peace plan negotiated by President Sarkozy on behalf of the European Union. President Medvedev of Russia has now signed on to the terms of this agreement. And that's an important development; it's a hopeful step.

Now Russia needs to honor the agreement and withdraw its forces, and of course end military operations. Secretary Rice will soon travel to Brussels, where she will meet with the foreign ministers of our NATO allies and EU officials to continue to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia.
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A major issue is Russia's contention that the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia may not be a part of Georgia's future. But these regions are a part of Georgia, and the international community has repeatedly made clear that they will remain so. Georgia is a member of the United Nations, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia lie within its internationally recognized borders. Georgia's borders should command the same respect as every other nation's.

There's no room for debate on this matter. The United Nations Security Council has adopted numerous resolutions concerning Georgia. These resolutions are based on the premise that South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain within the borders of Georgia and that their underlying conflicts will be resolved through international negotiations. These resolutions are based on the premise that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are to be considered a part of the Georgian territory, and to the extent there's conflicts they will be resolved peacefully.

These resolutions reaffirm Georgia's sovereignty and independence and territorial integrity. Russia itself has endorsed these resolutions. The international community is clear that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, and the United States fully recognizes this reality.

We will continue to stand behind Georgia's democracy; we will continue to insist that Georgia's sovereignty and independence and territorial integrity be respected.
PhotobucketSec. Rice: Russians "not honoring" agreement

The truce deal calls for Russian and Georgian troops to withdraw to positions held before the conflict in South Ossetia began. However, the Russians continue to hold and fortify positions ever closer to the Georgian capital at Tiblisi.

Foreign Minister Lavrov insisted Russian troops had the right to remain until "extra security measures envisaged in the six-point plan" are in place. Presumably this would mean peacekeepers from neutral nations.

Secretary of State Rice sees Russian actions differently: "From my point of view — and I am in contact with the French — the Russians are perhaps already not honoring their word."

Does This look like withdrawal?


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Russian armored vehicles move in Orjosani, between the capital Tbilisi and strategic town of Gori, Georgia, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2008. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a truce with Georgia on Saturday, a definitive step toward ending the fighting there despite the uncertainty on the ground reflected by Russian soldiers digging in just 30 miles from the Georgian capital.

Secretary Rice will appear on Fox News Sunday with further updates.

Georgia in NATO yea or nay?

The war in Georgia sparked off a discussion among those interested in issues involving our North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. One group of thought is that extending consideration of NATO membership to Georgia was a mistake and might very well have caused Russia to overreact.

I agree with Robert Farley, writing at the liberal magazine American Prospect, who sees it this way:

The case that NATO expansion was to blame goes something like this: If NATO had not extended to Russia's borders (the inclusion of the Baltic countries -- Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia -- is the push most often cited, although some people also feel that Poland should not have been included), then Russia would be more agreeable and less likely to abusively coerce its neighbors. I doubt that for several reasons.

First, Russian abuse is the No. 1 reason why most states seek NATO membership. The Poles, Baltic countries, Ukrainians, and Georgians want to get in because of Russian behavior. It's possible that the leaders (and in most cases, the populations) of these states are simply crazy and that NATO entry will make them more vulnerable to Russian coercion, but I'm pretty far from convinced.
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It is possible that if NATO and the United States had not expanded, Russia would gradually have accepted territorial norms that would have limited the tools it uses in relations with its neighbors. But possible is not the same thing as likely. Why would allowing Russia to evade territorial norms in its neighborhood make Russia more likely to respect those very same territorial norms?
However, I disagree with Farley's conclusion that Georgia should not be offered NATO membership due to the alliances inability to defend Georgia (can we defend Lithuania any better and they are in?) and due to Georgia's infirm hold on democracy.

The reason we must admit Georgia to NATO, and the sooner the better is apparent after viewing the map below.

Georgia in NATO Preserves Europe's Energy Lifeline

Currently, the oil and natural gas pipelines that run from the Caspian Sea basin in Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey supply approximately 1% of the world's global demand for oil and gas. There is enormous opportunity for development of additional supplies in this region.

Meanwhile, Russia has waged a long campaign to scuttle pipelines that would bring this energy to Central and Eastern Europe by routes that avoid Russia. The map below shows that if Russia were to block or control Georgia's pipelines it would give a monopoly to Russia which already supplies one quarter of the oil and half of the gas to Europe.

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See Energy Information Administration for full size PDF map.

Dmitry Medvedev, Vladimir Putin's hand picked successor for President of Russia was the former Chairman of Russian gas giant Gazprom which has been one of the driving factors in creating more billionaires in the Russian government than any other nation. Oil men like Vice President Cheney and President Bush are pikers by comparison.

Medvedev and Putin understand quite well how the added leverage of controlling the entire route between Caspian and Eurasian oil to Europe would benefit Russia both economically and politically. Threaten to shut off that supply, as Russia has done in the past, and you gain vital leverage over all of Europe and the interdependent world economy as well.

It is an imperative strategic priority for NATO and the United States to assure the independence and security of nations like Georgia who remain a narrow and all too vulnerable lifeline of energy supply for Europe and the world. Both Georgia and Ukraine should be admitted to NATO immediately!

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