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19 Sep, 2008 15:20

Rice wags finger at ‘Russian isolationism’

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned Russia that its policies have put it on a path to isolation and irrelevance. Rice's speech at the German Marshall Fund event reflects a further deterioration in U.S.-Ru

Speaking at the event in Washington, she said: “Russia's invasion of Georgia has achieved, and will achieve, no strategic objective.”

“Russia's leaders will not accomplish their primary war aim of removing Georgia's government. And our strategic goal now is to make it clear to Russia's leaders that their choices are putting Russia on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance,” she said.

Rice admitted the conflict in Georgia had deep roots and all sides had made mistakes and miscalculations.

She said several facts, however, were clear. “On August 7 following repeated violations of the ceasefire in South Ossetia – including the shelling of Georgian villages, the Georgian government launched a major military operation into Tskhinvali and other regions of the separatist region.”

Rice acknowledged that “these events were troubling” and “several Russian peacekeepers were killed in the fighting.”

She went on to say “the situation deteriorated further when Russia’s leaders violated Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and launched a full-scale invasion across an internationally recognized border.”

She said Russia would fail to attain its strategic goal of ousting the government of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

RT’s political commentator Peter Lavelle, giving his view on the Secretary of State’s speech, noted that there was no mention that Georgia broke international law by invading South Ossetia and killing civilians.

He also underlined that she had made no mention of the co-peacekeeping agreement that Russia was part of, namely in keeping the peace in the South Caucasus and both breakaway republics.

Lavelle believes it’s a diplomatic double talk. However, he said, “There’s one thing that is interesting for me: at least, the U.S. is admitting that Georgia started the aggression.”

Rice also said Russia’s actions “cannot be blamed on its neighbours like Georgia.”

“To be sure, Georgian leaders could have responded better to the events last month in South Ossetia. And it benefits no one to pretend otherwise,” she said.
The U.S. Secretary of State said they had warned their “Georgian friends that Russia was baiting them and that taking this bait would only play into Moscow's hands.”

But, she went on, “Russia’s leaders used this as a pretext to launch what by all appearances was a premeditated invasion of its independent neighbour.”

Commenting on this statement, Peter Lavelle said, “Ms Rice didn‘t mention in her speech that Georgia militarised itself with American money and American training”.

“She’s actually forgiving the aggression on the part of Saakashvili,” he said.

In her strongly worded speech Rice said Russia’s actions during the crisis had been “deeply disconcerting”.

“Its alarmist allegations of genocide by Georgian forces, its statements about U.S. actions during the conflict, its attempted dismemberment of a sovereign country by recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia, its talk of having ‘privileged’ interests and how it treats its independent neighbours, and its refusal to allow international monitors and NGOs into Abkhazia and South Ossetia – despite ongoing militia violence and retribution against innocent Georgians,” she said.

“What is more disturbing about Russia’s actions is that they fit into a worsening pattern of behaviour over several years now,” Rice added.

Former presidential candidate Ron Paul disagreed with Rice’s statements. He accused the U.S. government of trying to stir up another Cold War driven by vested interests. He believes “this whole issue with Georgia has only to do with oil, pipelines and powerful special financial interests.”

Russia says it did not pursue any geo-strategic goals when responding to Georgian agression in South Ossetia. The announcement by Russia's Foreign Ministry followed the U.S. Secretary of State's speech. It read as follows:

“It is not the first time that America's leaders strongly misrepresented the events caused by Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia. It is not much of a surprise taking into consideration Washington's strong support of the failed Tbilisi regime. Having voiced her regret over the death of ”several Russian peacekeepers,“ the US secretary of state remained silent about the murder by the Georgian army and its special forces of hundreds of civilians in South Ossetia, the majority of whom were Russian citizens. Russia hasn't persued any geo-stratigic goals when it had to react to Georgia's aggression. Russia's action was a one-off caused by extreme circumstances.

We wouldn't like the American side to speak on behalf of the whole world using so-called words of wisdom. As far as we know, nobody gave Washington such a right. We keep our official relations with the U.S. separate from the relations between Russian and American people.”

Clifford Gaddy, an economist from the Brookings Institution in Washington DC,believes Rice's comments were just rhetoric and an attempt by the U.S. to appear stronger.

“These statements we're hearing from Rice, Cheney etc are not always directly aimed at Russian leaders. They are very much aimed at the leaders and populations of U.S. western alllies, countries in the rest of world and, of course, at American voters. Why? In this entire crisis, the U.S. administration has appeared weak. They have been able to talk tough but had nothing to back it up,” he said.