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September 26, 2008

McCain's reckless response to Russia - so says everybody
Posted by Max Bergmann

 In response to the Russia crisis McCain was seen widely as reckless in his condemnation of Russia. Kissinger said last week that "We have to face the fact that the first shot in Georgia was fired on the Georgian side." The funny thing in McCain's Russia answer is that he demonstrated the very reckless behavior that people have accused him of. He recited his over-used "KGB" line that when he looks into Putin's soul he sees the letters K-G-B.  Clever line that completely screws us with any future relationship with Russia. Which hey, three Republican Secretaries of State (Kissinger, Powell, and Baker) say is incredibly important and not worth sacrificing for a border conflict in the Caucuses. McCain's priorities are completely off base and his over-the-top rhetoric which was on display only makes the possibility of a new Cold War all the more likely.

McCain’s response to Russia – without waiting for the facts – blamed and condemned Russia and pledged extensive commitments to Georgia. “McCain took a remarkably — and uniquely — more aggressive stance, siding clearly with Georgia’s pro-Western leaders and placing the blame for the conflict entirely on Russia.” The Politico assessed that “while virtually every other world leader called for calm in Georgia last Thursday morning, John McCain did something he’s done many times over his career in public life: He condemned Russia.” [Politico, 8/10/08. Politico, 8/13/08. CBS, 8/12/08]

Henry Kissinger: Georgia shot first, should not overreact to crisis. “We have to face the fact that the first shot in Georgia was fired on the Georgian side.  Now, Russia reacted in an excessive manner, but we should not make the whole relationship depend on the pictures that – (inaudible) – to explore the possibilities of cooperation and be very sure before w go the route of cutting off WTO and the other international measures for which cooperation with Russia may be very important.” [CNAS, 9/15/08]

Colin Powell: Georgians provoked and conflict was predictable.
“Now, in the current situation the Russians acted brutally.  I think they acted foolishly.  But it was also absolutely predictable what the Russians would do.  You could see them stacking up their troops.  And I think it was foolhardy on the part of President Saakashvli and the Georgian government to kick over this can, to light a match in a room full of gasoline.” When asked by CNN’s Frank Sesno, “So you’re saying the Georgians provoked this.” Secretary Powell responded, “They did.  I mean, there was a lot of reasons to have provocations in the area, but the match that started the conflagration was from the Georgian side.” [CNAS, 9/15/08]

Colin Powell dismisses McCain’s reckless “we are all Georgians” statement – says we have to be careful in a crisis and act businesslike, not emotional. Asked by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to explain McCain’s statement that “‘we are all Georgians now.’  What does that mean?” Secretary Powell responded, “One candidate said that, and I’ll let the candidate explain it for himself.  (Laughter.)  No, the fact of the matter is that you have to be very careful in a situation like this not just to leap to one side or the other until you’ve taken a good analysis of the whole situation.…So you have to treat Russia…in a straightforward, businesslike, objective way and not emotionally.” [CNAS, 9/15/08]

Henry Kissinger: U.S.-Russia relationship too important to sacrifice over situation in Georgia. “We have a number of common issues that we have to settle, if possible, with Russia.  We need Russia for a solution of the Iranian problem.  We may need Russia if Pakistan evolves in some of the directions that it might.  And it is helpful to cooperate with Russia not just on the [nuclear] question, but on the issues of energy.  It’s – (unintelligible) – and it’s an effort that should not be decided by what happened in Georgia.” [CNAS, 9/15/08]

James Baker:  U.S. should not over react; we must look to big-picture issues. “Look at it in a strategic context and not tactically…we have some big-picture issues that we need to be conscious of when we think about our future with Russia, and we ought to cooperate with them where we can, where they fit, but we ought to also be willing to confront them where our vital interests are involved. We are committed to the independence of these former republics of the former Soviet Union, and that should continue to be our position.  That doesn’t mean we ought to send the 101st Airborne in to guard the South Ossetian border.  I mean, that would not make very good sense and that’s night the kind of thing we ought to be speculating about.” [CNAS, 9/15/08]


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