A sour note in an otherwise strong statement proposing harsh consequences for Russia’s aggression, from booting them out of the G8 to rejecting their membership in the WTO to sending peacekeepers to their new Sudetenland in Ossetia and Abkhazia. He’s careful to say that Liebs and Graham will be going in their capacity as senators and members of the Armed Services Committee (and invites other members to go with them), but given the context and the fact that they’re his two most ardent supporters, it comes off like he’s dispatching them as envoys. Questions that pop to mind: Do Committee members really need to conduct their own fact-finding missions in the middle of a hot war? State and Defense briefings could probably get them up to speed. And what would the reaction have been if The One had made this move first with Bayh and Webb in the surrogate roles? Would have seemed to me like a transparent attempt to squeeze a photo op from a crisis that the administration’s already straining to manage without needing any extra distractions. Well, here you go.
Update: A transcript from the McCain campaign.
“The situation in Georgia remains perilous. I am pleased by President Bush’s statement this morning, and I support the various steps he outlined including the dispatch of Secretary Rice to Georgia and Europe, the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Georgia by sea and air, and U.S. insistence on Russian compliance with the terms of the ceasefire, which includes the withdrawal of all of its military forces from Georgia. The President’s statement of support for Georgia at this time is of critical importance, not only to the Georgian people but to all countries that are closely monitoring Russian activities and actions.
“I welcome President Sarkozy’s mediation and that of the European Union. I am concerned that the ceasefire agreement omitted any reference to Georgia’s territorial integrity. And, it’s clear that Russia is continuing military operations against Georgian targets despite the agreement, including in areas far from South Ossetia. I am deeply disturbed by reports of looting, burning villages, and killings of civilians that are in areas under Russian control. Anyone committing human rights abuses or acts in violation of the laws of war should be held accountable.
“At a time of high energy prices and instability in global markets, it’s important to understand that events in Georgia — part of a strategic energy corridor — affects individual lives far beyond the Caucasus. Because of the fighting, the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline has been shut down at a time when the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is also closed. Those pipelines are critical for transporting oil from sources in the Caspian to points west.
“The United States has canceled a planned joint military operation with Russia, but we will now need to review the full range of our relations. With our NATO allies, we must address the future of the alliance’s relationship with Russia and with our G7 partners. We should discuss whether it makes sense for Russia to continue its participation in the G8. We’ll also need to review Russia’s aspiration for membership in the World Trade Organization.
“In addition, I urge discussions about an international peacekeeping operation, including canvassing nations for possible contributions to such a force. NATO should also begin anew, the discussions about a membership track for both Georgia and Ukraine. After the events of the past six days, no one should wonder why countries on Russia’s periphery so ardently seek the security guarantees that alliance membership represents.
“The situation in Georgia remains fluid and dangerous. As soon as possible, my colleagues Senator Lieberman and Senator Graham will be traveling to Georgia. They’re both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. I hope that other members of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate and they will go together and receive an assessment of the situation and what we need to do in the future to avoid further escalation and also to protect the independence and freedom of the people of this brave democratic ally, the country of Georgia. Thank you.”