President George Bush finally let Russia have it with both barrels this afternoon, at least in diplomatic terms. In a terse and angry statement after his return from the Beijing Olympics, Bush accused Moscow of reneging on its commitment to proportionate response and said that “intelligence” indicated that Vladimir Putin might depose the freely-elected government in Tbilisi. He also warned Russia that it risks relationships with the US and Europe and its standing in the world:
In a Rose Garden statement Monday, Bush said there appeared to be an attempt by Russia to unseat Georgia’s pro-Western president, Mikhail Saakashvili.
He demanded an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the conflict zone and a return to the status quo as of Aug. 6.
Bush appears to have become angered at Russian double-dealing. His statement suggests that Putin told him something very different than what has become obvious over the last 24 hours: the Russians want to take Georgia by force. This statement offers the strongest indication yet that the US may start taking a more active role in assisting Georgia in resisting the Russian invasion. It was the kind of firm, unmistakable signal that we should have sent in the conflict’s opening hours.
I’ll look for the video and post it ASAP.
Update: Still looking for video, but the West sent a very strong signal to Putin today. The G-8 met on a conference call — or should I say the G-7?
Rice and the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan spoke in a conference call, during which they noted that Georgia had agreed to a cease-fire and wanted to see Russia sign on immediately, he said, adding that the call was one of more than 90 that Rice has made on the matter since Friday. …
The Group of Seven, or G7, is often expanded into what is known as the G8, a grouping that includes Russia, but Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was notably not included in the call.
McCain has long called for the G-8 to expel Russia. This snub indicates that the members may decide to trim their membership, and with it some economic benefits for Moscow.
Update II: MS-NBC has the first embeddable video of the speech: