Bush Says Russia Has Damaged Its Global Credibility

By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.

President Bush met with then-Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi in early April to discuss security relations between the two former Cold War superpowers. At the end of the conference, the two presidents issued a new U.S.-Russia Strategic Framework Declaration designed to give the next administrations of both nations something to guide them through the first years of their presidencies.

But in the aftermath of the harsh Russian-Georgian conflict this month over two breakaway provinces of Georgia, the administration has begun a careful re-evaluation of that strategic framework and what it means for the future.

At stake is an array of international issues, U.S. officials said, in which Russia and the United States have been working closely: North Korea and the Six-Party Talks, Iran and possible additional U.N. Security Council sanctions, and a number of other issues.

The future course of U.S.-Russian relations will be determined to some extent by what happens in the days and months to come, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently.

"We clearly have seen a side of Russia that we had hoped was a thing of the past, and we obviously are going to have to re-evaluate the direction of the strategic relationship with Russia going forward," Gates said August 17. "That depends to a considerable extent on their behavior from this point forward."

President Bush put the matter more directly at a White House briefing August 15.

"Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century. Only Russia can decide whether it will now put itself back on the path of responsible nations, or continue to pursue a policy that promises only confrontation and isolation," Bush said.

Bush said the Cold War is over and the days of satellite states and spheres of influence that often characterized relations among nations also are gone. A contentious relationship with Russia is not in America's best interest, nor is such a relationship in Russia's best interest, he said.

"With its actions in recent days Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world," Bush said. Part of recovering that credibility and respect includes respecting the freedom of its neighbors, he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is traveling to Brussels, Belgium, where she will confer with the North Atlantic Council at NATO and the European Union, said there is no doubt that there will be further consequences. She briefed the president at Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch on August 16 after meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili the day before and announcing that a cease-fire accord had been reached.

"For the first time in memory, Europe is becoming a continent that is whole, free and at peace," Bush said. "Unfortunately, Russia has tended to view the expansion of freedom and democracy as a threat to its interests. The opposite is true: Free and prosperous societies on Russia's borders will advance Russia's interests by serving as sources of stability and economic opportunity."

Bush said in recent years that Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic and security structures of the West, and that the United States has supported those efforts. "Now Russia has put its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions," he said.

At a Pentagon briefing August 14, Gates announced that a multinational naval exercise involving Russia that was to have begun August 15 had been cancelled, as has a U.S.-Canadian-Russian security exercise, Vigilant Eagle, that was to have begun August 20.

"In the days and weeks ahead, the Department of Defense will reexamine the entire gamut of our military-to-military activities with Russia and will make changes as necessary and appropriate, depending on Russian actions in the days ahead," Gates said.

Source: U.S. Department of State

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