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9 Sep, 2008 22:08

U.S. officials split over Caucasus conflict

U.S. officials are divided over the recent violence in South Ossetia. The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing has cast Moscow as an aggressor but members of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs have sided with Russia. And making a decis

At last, some U.S. voices have been raised against labeling Russia as the aggressor during the conflict in the Caucasus.
“The recent fighting in Georgia and its breakaway region was started by Georgia. The Georgians broke the truce, not the Russians! And no talk of provocation can change that fact,” said Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

Congressman Ron Paul added the U.S. is in Georgia “not for democracy”.

“We are not for democracy there – we are there to protect a pipeline. And that is tragic for me,” he said.

Nevertheless, no concrete proposals came except one – Senator Hillary Clinton called for the creation of a special commission to get the facts straight before judging Russia.

“Rather than seeking to isolate them – which I think is not a smart proposal – we should be more strategic. We have to answer for ourselves: Did we embolden the Georgians in any way? Did we send mixed signals to the Russians?” Hillary Clinton said.

The answer of U.S. officials was a ‘no’.

“For many months my colleagues and Secretary Rice had been telling the Georgians clearly and unequivocally that any military action initiated by them would be a mistake and would lead to a disaster,” Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman said.

And a denial came after Senator John Warner asked: “Were there any requests from the President of Georgia or other high-ranking officials for the U.S. to provide active military support for the Georgia military?”

Some also insisted that Georgia had not been promised membership in NATO.

Others though were quick to question the statement.

“That is inconsistent with the 2008 Bucharest Summit statement. It also seems to be inconsistent with the statement of Vice President Dick Cheney. Those sound like promises to me,” said Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

As for specific actions towards Moscow, they are vague. According to Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman, the U.S. is looking at all options including blocking Russia's WTO accession.

But when it comes to Iran, working with Russia remains the U.S. national interest.

“Russia has been a constructive partner with respect to Iran's nuclear programme,” Edelman said.

The officials have been also confident that using force against Russia or providing military aid to Georgia is not an option.