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For the Record: Obama, Biden on Georgia | The Nation

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Robert Dreyfuss

Bob Dreyfuss

News of America’s misadventures in foreign policy and defense.

For the Record: Obama, Biden on Georgia

Here's the statement that Barack Obama issued within hours of the Russian decision to recognize the independence of two separatist regions of Georgia:

I condemn Russia's decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states and call upon all countries of the world not to accord any legitimacy to this action. ... Senator Biden and I have called for $1 billion in reconstruction assistance to help the people of Georgia in this time of great trial. I also welcome NATO's decision to establish a NATO-Georgia Commission. ... If Russia's government continues to violate the norms and practices of the international community, the United States and our allies must review all aspects of relations with Russia. ... Russia's recent choices -- not American or European decisions -- are ... reminding us all that peace and security in Europe cannot be taken for granted.

Tough words--not quite a resounding call for a new cold war, but close to it. Obama suggested that he would review Russia's OSCE membership, its applications to the WTO and OECD, the US-Russian civil nuclear agreement, and the Russia-NATO Council. Not too different from McCain's proposal (made pre-Georgia war) to kick Russia out of the G-8.

Obama has also called for military aid to Georgia: "The United States and Europe should immediately commit the resources necessary to ... restore [Georgia's] ability to manage its security."

Georgia's Ambassador Vasil Sikharuldize has been everywhere at the Democratic National Convention, the Weekly Standard lets us know, meeting with Obama's advisers, including former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and adviser Susan Rice, opnely making the point that Georgia's security is about "protect[ing] Europe's energy security, which depends on the safe transfer of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea through Georgia."

Biden thumped the war drums, too, in his speech to the DNC, but as the Christian Science Monitor noted, his less-than-nuanced Georgia war-whoops weren't exactly well received:

Applause fell off considerably when Biden proposed anything like more US involvement overseas. The line "We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we'll help the people of Georgia rebuild" sent the decibel level in the Pepsi Center markedly south.

What we didn't hear: no warnings that sending Dick Cheney to Georgia might not be a good idea. No comment on McCain's grand-standing decision to send his wife, Cindy, and, earlier, Senator Joe Lieberman, to Georgia. Not a mention (after the initial comments, weeks ago) about McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann's business ties to Georgia as a lobbyist for including that rogue nation in NATO, with its breakaway regions included. Of course, just before Obama announced his selection for the No. 2 spot on the ticket, Biden himself made a high-profile visit to Georgia.

In fact, Biden's Georgia visit was probably pre-arranged with the Obama campaign:

According to Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander, Biden spoke to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday [August 11], and on Wednesday, the Georgian embassy conveyed to the Foreign Relations chairman that Saakashvili wanted Biden to come as soon as possible, as the former Soviet republic sought a ceasefire with Russia.

Biden and Obama staffers discussed the proposed trip and Obama officials said they were glad Biden was considering it. One source familiar with the discussions added that had the Obama team opposed the idea, the senator would likely not have gone.

Some of Obama's advisers -- notably Bill Perry and Richard Danzig -- were reportedly saying in Denver that it's important to talk to Russia and to avoid pushing Moscow into a corner, to treat Russia with respect, according to Bloomberg. That's hopeful, but there's no sign of that sort of realist-influenced rationality from Obama and Biden themselves.

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