U.S. policy on Russia depends on conduct

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, HI

U.S. policy on Russia depends on conduct

Vol. 13, Issue 230 – Sunday, August 17, 2008


Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Russia’s assault on Georgia will
have repercussions for years to come.

Consequences that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said would occur from
the Russia-Georgia war already have begun as the United States
struggles to deal with the crisis. President Bush has been careful to
avoid the particulars of subsequent repercussions, which should depend
on Russia’s conduct in the days and months ahead.

The hostility appears to have resulted in agreement, following lengthy
negotiations, on an American anti- missile system in Poland. In
announcing it, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said, "Only
people of ill intent should fear this agreement."

The war resulted in cancellation of joint military exercises of Russia
and the U.S. and is likely to block congressional action to allow a
Russian spacecraft to transport American and other astronauts to and
from an international space station.

Russia’s intervention in separating the enclaves of South Ossetia and
Abkhazia from Georgia is causing concern that similar assaults might
follow in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave of Azerbaijan, Transnistria in
Moldova and Crimea in Ukraine.

The Bush administration should have wide latitude in dealing with such
issues but is not helped by the intrusion of Sen. John McCain, who was
quick to call for Russia’s expulsion from the G-8 group of industrial
democracies and rejection of Russia’s application to join the World
Trade Organization.

In past election years, presidential candidates have deferred to the
sitting president during developing crises. Both McCain and
Sen. Barack Obama, vacationing here last week, placed appropriately
supportive phone calls to the White House and to Georgia’s President
Mikheil Saakashvili.

McCain, whose top foreign policy adviser was a lobbyist for Georgia
before joining the campaign, went a step further. "We are all
Georgians," McCain declared, play-acting as president. He has been
calling Saakashvili, a friend since his days as a student at George
Washington University, several times a day, and brazenly announced
that two of his supporters, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., and Joseph
I. Lieberman, I-Conn., would travel to Georgia’s capital on his