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John McCain: Georgian crisis threatens former Soviet republics

ERIE, Pa. -- John McCain gathered reporters together here in a hotel meeting room a short while ago to talk about the crisis in South Ossetia and Georgia. Using sharp language, he warned that Russia’s aggression against Georgia threatens the stability of the other former Soviet republics and called for diplomatic pressure, humanitarian aid and securing a vital gas pipeline.

"Russia’s actions, a clear violation of international law, have no place in 21st century Europe," McCain said. "The implications of Russia’s actions go beyond a threat to the territorial integrity and independence of democJohn_mccain_warns_that_georgian_crisis threatens other former Soviet republics; here Russian troops in Georgiaratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia in part to intimidate other neighbors, such as Ukraine, for choosing to associate with the West.... The fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of divided Europe and the independence of former Soviet republics."

After providing a short overview of the tiny nation’s history -– it was among the first the first to officially adopt Christianity, he said -– McCain described the progress Georgia has made since the "Rose Revolution" under President Mikheil Saakashvili five years ago "is nothing short of remarkable."

"That makes Russia’s recent actions against the Georgians all the more alarming," McCain said. "In the face of Russian aggression, the very existence of independent Georgia and the survival of a democratically elected government are at stake."

McCain called on the United States and its allies to bring a resolution condemning Russia before the U.N. Security Council; for NATO’s North American council to deploy an international peacekeeping force; for NATO to reconsider its decision to deny Georgia membership, which he said Russia may have viewed as a “green light” to move forward; for the secretary of state to visit European leaders, and for the G-7 foreign ministers to meet.

McCain also called on the United States to work with Turkey and Azerbaijan to secure the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, to send humanitarian aid to the Georgians, and to reach out to Ukraine and other former Soviet republics who are concerned about their stability. The full statement as prepared, is after the jump.

-- Seema Mehta

Photo by Vladimir Popov / Associated Press

"Americans wishing to spend August vacationing with their families or watching the Olympics may wonder why their newspapers and television screens are filled with images of war in the small country of Georgia. Concerns about what occurs there might seem distant and unrelated to the many other interests America has around the world. And yet Russian aggression against Georgia is both a matter of urgent moral and strategic importance to the United States of America.

"Georgia is an ancient country, at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion. After a brief period of independence following the Russian revolution, the Red Army forced Georgia to join the Soviet Union in 1922. As the Soviet Union crumbled at the end of the Cold War, Georgia regained its independence in 1991, but its early years were marked by instability, corruption, and economic crises.

"Following fraudulent parliamentary elections in 2003, a peaceful, democratic revolution took place, led by the U.S.-educated lawyer Mikheil Saakashvili. The Rose Revolution changed things dramatically and, following his election, President Saakashvili embarked on a series of wide-ranging and successful reforms. I've met with President Saakashvili many times, including during several trips to Georgia.

"What the people of Georgia have accomplished in terms of democratic governance, a Western orientation, and domestic reform is nothing short of remarkable. That makes Russia's recent actions against the Georgians all the more alarming. In the face of Russian aggression, the very existence of independent Georgia and the survival of its democratically-elected government are at stake.

"In recent days Moscow has sent its tanks and troops across the internationally recognized border into the Georgian region of South Ossetia. Statements by Moscow that it was merely aiding the Ossetians are belied by reports of Russian troops in the region of Abkhazia, repeated Russian bombing raids across Georgia, and reports of a de facto Russian naval blockade of the Georgian coast. Whatever tensions and hostilities might have existed between Georgians and Ossetians, they in no way justify Moscow's path of violent aggression. Russian actions, in clear violation of international law, have no place in 21st century Europe.

"The implications of Russian actions go beyond their threat to the territorial integrity and independence of a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbors such as Ukraine for choosing to associate with the West and adhering to Western political and economic values. As such, the fate of Georgia should be of grave concern to Americans and all people who welcomed the end of a divided of Europe, and the independence of former Soviet republics. The international response to this crisis will determine how Russia manages its relationships with other neighbors. We have other important strategic interests at stake in Georgia, especially the continued flow of oil through the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which Russia attempted to bomb in recent days; the operation of a critical communication and trade route from Georgia through Azerbaijan and Central Asia; and the integrity an d influence of NATO, whose members reaffirmed last April the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Georgia.

"Yesterday Georgia withdrew its troops from South Ossetia and offered a ceasefire. The Russians responded by bombing the civilian airport in Georgia's capital, Tblisi, and by stepping up its offensive in Abkhazia. This pattern of attack appears aimed not at restoring any status quo ante in South Ossetia, but rather at toppling the democratically elected government of Georgia. This should be unacceptable to all the democratic countries of the world, and should draw us together in universal condemnation of Russian aggression.

"Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin must understand the severe, long-term negative consequences that their government's actions will have for Russia's relationship with the U.S. and Europe. It is time we moved forward with a number of steps.

"The United States and our allies should continue efforts to bring a resolution before the UN Security Council condemning Russian aggression, noting the withdrawal of Georgian troops from South Ossetia, and calling for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgian territory. We should move ahead with the resolution despite Russian veto threats, and submit Russia to the court of world public opinion.

"NATO's North Atlantic Council should convene in emergency session to demand a ceasefire and begin discussions on both the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to South Ossetia and the implications for NATO's future relationship with Russia, a Partnership for Peace nation. NATO's decision to withhold a Membership Action Plan for Georgia might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia, and I urge the NATO allies to revisit the decision.

"The Secretary of State should begin high-level diplomacy, including visiting Europe, to establish a common Euro-Atlantic position aimed at ending the war and supporting the independence of Georgia. With the same aim, the U.S. should coordinate with our partners in Germany, France, and Britain, to seek an emergency meeting of the G-7 foreign ministers to discuss the current crisis. The visit of French President Sarkozy to Moscow this week is a welcome expression of transatlantic activism.

"Working with allied partners, the U.S. should immediately consult with the Ukrainian government and other concerned countries on steps to secure their continued independence. This is particularly important as a number of Russian Black Sea fleet vessels currently in Georgian territorial waters are stationed at Russia's base in the Ukrainian Crimea.

"The U.S. should work with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and other interested friends, to develop plans to strengthen the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

"The U.S. should send immediate economic and humanitarian assistance to help mitigate the impact the invasion has had on the people of Georgia.

"Our united purpose should be to persuade the Russian government to cease its attacks, withdraw its troops, and enter into negotiations with Georgia. We must remind Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world. World history is often made in remote, obscure countries. It is being made in Georgia today. It is the responsibility of the leading nations of the world to ensure that history continues to be a record of humanity's progress toward respecting the values and security of free people.

"Thank you."

 
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I dont know if I trust McCain, somewhat of a war mongerer his self to deal with russia over this.,
I really dont want to see WWIII in my life time. Sometimes I wonder if it is really any of our business. After all, we "America" kinda had an unjust war of our own. People should throw rocks in glass houses. Or maybe we should clean up our own back yard before we start critisizing other. Has anyone seen this video of McCain flipping someone the bird., LOL. Really funny. Wonder if he would flip off Putin if mccain was pres? If you want to see the video of McCain flipping the bird you can go to http://www.mccanes.com. In some ways I trust Obama more then mccain when it comes to avoiding WWIII.

McCain and his top military advisor made this our business by taking two million dollars since 2004 from Gerogia to get US support to arm Georgia. In exchange Georgia agreed to act as an ally to the US in Iraq.

McCain is not the President at this point, but he has been constantly challenging Putin at every point. McCain needs to stand down and stop acting like he is the President. Calling on other nations to take action against Russia is not his role here and is simply being viewed as an attempt to challenge Russia into further conflict.

McCain camp did say a war would be good for McCain at this point, and McCain and his team are synonymous with Georgia. They OWN the military there and they are calling the shots.

Just realize however that Russia may take two steps further than even McCain anticipated and they may just call him on his bluff. Now what McCain? Take on Russia? With what? Nuclear weapons with a preemtive first strike.

The guy is not only insane, he's mad.

"After providing a short overview of the tiny nation’s history -- it was the first to officially adopt Christianity" -- Well, Mr. McCain first should get his historical facts straight: Georgia was NOT the first country to adopt Christianity; it was Armenia, in 301 AD. Plus, what difference does it make what religion a country adopted, much less when it did adopt? By the way, Russians, last time I checked, are Christians too. So, there is simply no place to bring the religion into the picture.

maybe this is still part of the bundle of concessions to russia's ruling mafia in exchange for the russian stand down in view of the american ruling mafia's raid on iraq's oil and the blooming poppy fields of afghanistan. and as noted above, for a senator like obama, or even the formerly detention-tried mccain, to bark at putin's russia would at best seem ridiculous.

As usual old farts are quite content to put a country's youth in harms way. I guess Viagra does not quite do it for John.

Reading the us press and hearing us news, there is one thing I wonder: what the hell would US care if it were not in it up to its throat? Why is US constantly trying to impose its va"ues and a way of life on nations it has not even a common border with? World does not need this anymore? What would some old fart who had his ass kicked a few decades ago by pinkoes and never left his world of suffering since know as to how the georgian crisis should be managed?

Russia did not start this war. Georgia did. Russia did not kill hundreds of civilians while they were asleep. Russia does not bomb the refugees (30,000), it is spending millions and a lot of humanitarian effort to host them as they flee the bombing.

What is there for Russians to start dialogue with an idiot educated in US who does not exercise his brain before killing hundreds? Would you, people of a democratic nation, start a dialogue with someone who shelled hundreds of people off the earth. May be not.

As in any propaganda, a side that is supposed to receive impact is getting only one side of the story. Well, here's a Russian side for you. What stinks in this case is that you in the states are watching a story written in your country and played thousands of miles away from it, with innocent people being killed.

In September 1939 HItler invaded Poland to 'protect' the German interests - and Stalin and the Soviet Union invaded Poland at the same time; in August 2008 another murderous dictator - Putin - invaded Georgia to 'protect' the Russian interests in that country. WW II happened because no one stood up to Hitler and Stalin. The world can not make that same mistake twice.

The war nerd has his usual acerbic and interesting commentary on the state of the situation here: http://exiledonline.com/war-nerd-south-ossetia-the-war-of-my-dreams/

Sure beats the uninformative journalism I see in US papers in spite of his hell-bent for leather love of war.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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