Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama put out a statement condemning Russia for their escalation of the conflict with Georgia. “No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and invaded another country. Russia has escalated its military campaign through strategic bombing and the movement of its ground forces into the heart of Georgia. There is no possible justification for these attacks,” Obama said.
He repeated his call for Russia to accept the proposed cease fire, “I reiterate my call for Russia to stop its bombing campaign, to stop flights of Russian aircraft in Georgian airspace, and to withdraw its ground forces from Georgia. The Georgian government has proposed a cease-fire and the Russian government should accept it. There is also an urgent need for humanitarian assistance to reach the people of Georgia, and casualties on both sides.”
Obama said that the U.N. must stand up for Georgia, “The United States, Europe and all other concerned countries must stand united in condemning this aggression, and seeking a peaceful resolution to this crisis. We should continue to push for a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence. This is a clear violation of the sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Georgia – the UN must stand up for the sovereignty of its members, and peace in the world.”
The Illinois senator called for the U.S. and Europe to strengthen their relationship with Georgia, “Going forward, the United States and Europe must support the people of Georgia. Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, we must provide economic assistance, and help rebuild what has been destroyed. I have consistently called for deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO, and we must continue to press for that deeper relationship.”
He referred to this as a turning point in U.S. –Russian relations, “The relationship between Russia and the West is long and complicated. There have been many turning points, for good and ill. This is another turning point. Let me be clear: we seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government, and friendship with the Russian people. We want Russia to play its rightful role as a great nation – but with that role comes the responsibility to act as a force for progress in this new century, not regression to the conflicts of the past.”
Obama’s language was similar in strength to that of President Bush who said that, Russia had “invaded a sovereign neighboring state.” He also said, “Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.” This is a critical moment for Russian-American relations, because Georgia has been a strong U.S. ally, and other than diplomacy, the Bush administration has few options in dealing with Russia.
There really isn’t a military option available, and if the United States stands by while Georgia falls, they risk losing other allies in the region. This is a situation that goes beyond electoral politics and requires Obama, Bush, and McCain to present a unified front, which is what they each are in the process of doing.