President Bush Responds to Russians, Sends Humanitarian Aid to Georgia

Military cargo planes are delivering food and supplies to a devastated Georgia. Berlin airlift Deja Vu.

President Bush dispatched US military hardware to the heart of the Caucasus yesterday and warned Russia that it could be frozen out of international bodies as punishment for its aggression in Georgia.

In his toughest criticism of Russia since becoming President, Mr Bush accused it of breaching the provisional ceasefire agreed with Georgia only 24 hours earlier.

He cited intelligence showing that Russian troops had again taken the town of Gori and could threaten the capital, Tbilisi. He insisted that Moscow respect the former Soviet republic’s territorial integrity. There were also reports of Russian-backed militia in South Ossetia looting ethnic Georgian villages and killing inhabitants.

……Simon Sebag Montefiore says retaking Ossetia is just one part of Russia’s campaign to reassert dominance and defy the US

……“To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis,” Mr Bush said.

The US is in talks with allies about whether to suspend Russia’s membership of the G8 club of industrialised nations. There is a growing clamour to block Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organisation and to rescind an invitation for it to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Mr Bush’s statement, delivered in stern tones outside the White House, was stronger than his cautious comments last week, which reflected the State Department’s unhappiness with Georgia’s use of force against pro-Russian separatist rebels in South Ossetia.

Although direct military intervention is not being considered, Pentagon sources have hinted that a limited number of troops could be deployed to support what Mr Bush described as a vigorous and continuing humanitarian mission headed by the US military.

The first US air force transport aircraft arrived last night, and the navy was heading to the Black Sea – which is controlled by Russian warships – to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies direct to Georgian ports. “We expect Russia to honour its commitment to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance,” Mr Bush said.

……Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, flew to France last night to meet President Sarkozy before heading to Tbilisi. Sergei Lavrov, her Russian counterpart, said that the US must choose between supporting the Georgian leadership and maintaining a partnership with Russia on international issues. Dr Rice said: “This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbours, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed.”

We’ll see….

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