Pullout? Don’t hold your breath.
GORI, Georgia, Aug. 22 — Russia pulled troops and armored vehicles out of vast swaths of seized territory and ended its 10-day occupation of this Georgian city Friday, but Georgian and foreign officials disputed Russia’s claim that it had complied with the terms of a recent cease-fire agreement.
……But the Russian retreat now underway leaves many contentious issues unresolved, including the future deployment of thousands of Russian soldiers and South Ossetian militiamen aligned with them who remain in undisputed Georgian territory. Whether the disputed territories — South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast — will remain part of Georgia, seek independence or be annexed by Russia is also unclear.
“I think what happened today is encouraging but unacceptable until the last Russian soldier leaves my country,” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said in a telephone interview late Friday. “What they are still doing, making explosions, camping by the road, digging positions, does not look to me like cease-fire. It looks like warfare.”
Officials in the United States, which along with several European countries has pressured Russia to leave Georgia, agreed. “We are not seeing that they are in compliance right now,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said at a briefing in Crawford, Tex., where President Bush is spending time at his ranch. “They have not completely withdrawn from areas considered undisputed territories, and they need to do it.”
Cheney’s going to be dropping by for a visit.
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) – Vice President Dick Cheney will travel to Georgia early next month, the White House said on Monday, a move that will likely be seen as an effort to shore up support for the country after its war with Russia.
Cheney will meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and also visit Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Italy during his trip, which will be begin September 2, his office said in a statement.
He is scheduled to meet President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan as well as Viktor Yushchenko, the president of Ukraine who has pressed to quickly join the NATO alliance after the Russia-Georgia war that unnerved many former Soviet republics.
As former Soviet strongholds request membership in NATO, expect to see Moscow getting a lot more unnerved.