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Biden, Back from Georgia, Speaks Out Against Russian Invasion

By Jonathan Weisman
With his name still buzzing among the vice presidential prognosticators, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. returned tonight from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia talking trash, but his target was not Sen. John McCain or even President Bush.

It was Russia.

"I have long sought to help Russia realize its extraordinary potential as a force for progress in the international community, and have supported legislative efforts intended to forge a more constructive relationship with the Kremlin. But Russia's actions in Georgia will have consequences," the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a statement. "Russia's failure to keep its word and withdraw troops from Georgia risks the country's standing as part of the international community. That is not the future the United States or Europe want -- but it is the future Russia may get."

Biden's prominent role in the speculation over Sen. Barack Obama's choice for running mate stems from his heft in foreign policy, but it also comes from a belief in Democratic circles that Biden will do what the other vice presidential finalists -- and to some extent Obama himself -- will not do: Fight back hard.

Some Democrats have been pleading with Obama to use McCain's tough response to the Russian invasion of Georgia to paint him as a trigger-happy interventionist who would risk bringing a war-weary nation into military conflict in regions where the United States has no interest.

For those Democrats, Biden's conclusions from his trip may be a disappointment.

Consultations with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, Georgian Parliamentary Speaker David Bakradze and U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft left the Democratic senator seemingly as angry as McCain is.

"I left the country convinced that Russia's invasion of Georgia may be the one of the most significant event to occur in Europe since the end of communism. The claims of Georgian atrocities that provided the pretext for Russia's invasion are rapidly being disproved by international observers, and the continuing presence of Russian forces in the country has severe implications for the broader region. The war that began in Georgia is no longer about that country alone. It has become a question of whether and how the West will stand up for the rights of free people throughout the region," Biden said in a statement.

By Web Politics Editor  |  August 18, 2008; 10:14 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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We should get out of Georgia, Poland, Czech Republic, Moldova, Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Israel ... and STOP spending my tax dollars on arming other countries. Specifically countries like Georgia that cannot live peacefully with their neighbors. We NEED to make peace with Russia!

Posted by: US Citizen | August 24, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Smaller countries/heritages have equal
rights to freedom, democracy and self-
determination. Victims of aggression
should not be accused and blamed by
the aggressor. It is redundant history.
Better luck in the future!

Posted by: ELLMV | August 24, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

As an American who has spent time in Russia, Ingushetia and Ossetia, and has written an MA thesis based on my field research there, which dissected the collapse of the Soviet Union as it lead to the formation of new Russia as it connected to the Russo-Chechen war, I see this event as a very classic case of Russian build-up and planned aggression - complete with pretext.
Little nations are just always attacking Russia or Russia's protected for reasons no one can quite understand and for no apparent benefit...
The question about why Saakashvili made that foolish mistake to attack Ossetia seems self-answering. Indeed, why would he?

I look forward to receiving more information from neutral parties as to what was going on in Tshkinvali during the week leading up to the 7-8th. As I recall, similar arguments over who started what little shoot-out here and there were being conducted then, but just to a lesser scale than after the 12th.
Saakashvili had also appealed for Western mediation before the eruption, claiming that Russia was about to invade.

Moving on, Russia used the argument of preserving Her territorial integrity very effectively in convincing the international community to allow her a free hand in Chechnya. (The legality and details of that war, I shall spare you here. At any rate, as a result of her policies there, her success in the North Caucasus is largely superficial.)

However, the international community has steadfastly backed Russia's claim of territorial integrity. The US administrations under Clinton and Bush have both adopted a very indulgent policy with Russia, hoping that she would (despite all indications as revealed in the loss of freedoms of press, the massive humans rights abuses, murdering and silencing of political and social advocates, utter centralization of power, etc.) remain on the course of democracy if we were nice and supportive.
Certain elements in DC, old cold warriors you could say kept warning against Russia but had been disregarded somewhat in light of this policy. Until now. Now we reached some culmination and many are starting to speak out against Russia as being aggressive and undemocratic.

I thus do not buy the argument that the neo-cons were trying to encircle Russia or something like that.
American policy in general has been too indulgent of Russia considering the decline it has been going through in terms of democratic and free governance over the past 15 years.
Of course this doesn't mean that we should take evil hawkish or even chicken-hawkish stances.
But, forget about the party feuds we are having or our rejections of one party or another, or whatever. This is an issue actually about Russia not domestic American politics.
If John McCain said something against Russia, it is because he was thinking along the lines of the cold warriors the whole time.
If Bush said something it is because he has been informed that that is American foreign policy.
If Joe Biden came back from Tbilisi and said what he said, it is because he is repeating exactly what any red-blooded Georgian patriot would be telling him. And he is reporting exactly what he discerned from being there.
I have been in the Caucasus and I have seen the very same things.
Now, this does not mean that Joe Biden or I aren't perhaps swayed by the input of those to whom we were speaking or are seeing one perspective more than say that of the Russians or Ossetians. It also still begs a decent answer to the question of what really was going on in the weeks leading up to the event in Ossetia.
But as mentioned above, Russia very effectively mobilized the argument that she had free reign in Chechnya due to concerns of territorial integrity.
Russia now states that Georgia can forget about Georgia's claims to territorial integrity in Abkhazia and S. Ossetia.

I guarantee you that Georgia did not commit atrocities and certainly not are continuing to commit atrocities in Ossetia at the same scale as the Russians have been doing in Chechnya and Ingushetia.

And fyi, the Ossetians (North) in fact have committed pogroms against the Ingush.
This is a region in which ethnic clashes are not uncommon and no ethnic group is completely a victim.
A major reason that there are feuds has to do with tsarist, Soviet and later Russian arbitrarily drawn borders, deportations, resettlements and land policies in the region. So once again the original problem was caused by Russian divide-n-rule policies. This adds some more fuel to the fire in the argument that Russia wanted this little skirmish. It is basically a land grab in the Caucasus.
In sum, it is my assessment both John McCain and Joe Biden are speaking what they think to be true.
I understand that we have grown so wary and mistrusting of our politicians. And the whole Iraq, war on terror stuff has made many of us cynical.
But, all that time, I've been in and watching Russia and the Caucasus. For once, our politicians are giving their honest assessments of the situation - whether they are right or wrong.
And Republican or Democrat coming in to the White House, you will see a change in our foreign policy towards Russia. We won't initiate another Cold War. Don't worry. But we will be a bit less indulgent. And we will, I hope, start supporting our allies in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus - who know Russia well - ever increasingly. In fact, I think that if we had worked on building up our relationships with them instead of dealing with Iraq, we would have a better position in the world today.
Also, if Russia isn't indulged I hope that her leaders will choose to conduct themselves in less totalitarian and hawkish ways.
One might argue our own leaders have recently done similar things. Well, I hope they'll stop that too.
But, sending foreign aid and telling Russia to get out of Georgia is perfectly rational and in fact just. We are the only country in the world strong enough to be able to do that.
Let's be happy our leaders and representatives are finally doing something half decent and correct - both sides.

Posted by: Sarah E. Slye | August 23, 2008 3:09 AM | Report abuse

Biden on Russia:

I did not see Senator Biden making mention that Israel had been arming the Georgians for over seven years; and that the invasion into South Oseetia, the plan and the leadership, was provided by Israeli military personnel, including participating in the invasion.

But Israel's part is further notorious by having insinuated two
of its citizens as ministers in the government of Saakashvili; one
the Defense Minister.

Ms. Anne Applebaum, a WP reporter, in current article on
punishing Russia neglected citing Israel's part. But balanced
reporting is effectively murdered by choice.

Posted by: 3rd-Party Advocate | August 19, 2008 9:54 PM | Report abuse

I join with those who think Joe Biden should have paid much more attention to the utter stupidity of the surprise attack Georgia launched on Aug. 6th within hours of Saakashvili's announcement of a Georgian unilaterally declared cease-fire.

The disaster was the fault of Georgian leadership spurred onward by neocons in Washington.

Posted by: James Canning | August 19, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

It's time we destroy the Russian Troops in Georgia! Putin needs to know he cannot take over countries by force.
Putin, thinks that because we are in a made up war contrived by the likes of BUSH and Mc Cain and Clinton that we cannot protect our friends.
Patton wanted to destroy Russia during the Second World War and we should have let him! The only Good Russian is a Dead One. B-52's and American Warships can take out Russian troops in Georgia.
Oil? We can stop Russia from using that as a tool also. It's time to stand our ground

Posted by: Wally | August 19, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"Consultations with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, Georgian Parliamentary Speaker David Bakradze and U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft left the Democratic senator seemingly as angry as McCain is."

Talk about getting one side of the story, what a frigging joke!

Posted by: John E. Mangan | August 19, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

It is disappointing that Biden has joined the Chicken hawk wing of the democratic party. His comments show very little sophistication in understanding global issues. Of course, the Russians were waiting for a provocation to stump Georgia, but the major question is why did Georgia do it? What does making Russia the new great evil do for our foreign policy. What we should be doing is trying to diplomatically work the situation out. realistically, military action is out of the question, so why don't we accept it and stop huffing and puffing. I support Obama, but he continues to show that he doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to take a strong position "outside" the beltway mainstream. After a few months in which there really was hope, we are back to Republicans talking like they always do, and Democrats trying to act like Republican-lite so they won't be called weak. In doing so, they show how weak they are.

Posted by: ignacio Garcia | August 19, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Who is the USA to voice opinion and get European Nations involved???
Did we not start wars in the Middle East
under false pretext???
Are we allowing the Palestian people to be held behind a huge wall while their land is taken piece by piece by Israel???
Do we not give BILLIONS TO ISRAEL; one of the most racist countires on this planet???
USA should reevaluate their own policies prior to telling others what to do!!!

Posted by: zakidzaki | August 19, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Joe, Joe, Joe,....look into the facts Joe. Georgia attacked first, shelled the South Ossetia without mercy.

Posted by: Drew | August 19, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

What would have him do, lie? The difference will be the way it is conducted. I feel very safe with Obama and the team he will put together.

Very disappointing. It makes me unenthusiastic about Biden as a VP choice. If he agrees with McCain that "we are all Georgians," then what will be different about American foreign policy under the Democrats? If we want a continuation of Bush's mindlessly aggressive policies, why not vote in McCain, who seems to relish war even more than Bush. For Biden, the foreign policy "expert," not to understand the subtleties and realities of the situation in Georgia, Ossetia & Abkazia (who don't want to be part of Georgia), and Russia doesn't speak well of his capabilities as a Vice President.

Posted by: Chuck | August 19, 2008 9:17 AM

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Guys....always remember Kosovo precedent...Russia just did what US did to protect Kosovo...

Posted by: max | August 19, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Very disappointing. It makes me unenthusiastic about Biden as a VP choice. If he agrees with McCain that "we are all Georgians," then what will be different about American foreign policy under the Democrats? If we want a continuation of Bush's mindlessly aggressive policies, why not vote in McCain, who seems to relish war even more than Bush. For Biden, the foreign policy "expert," not to understand the subtleties and realities of the situation in Georgia, Ossetia & Abkazia (who don't want to be part of Georgia), and Russia doesn't speak well of his capabilities as a Vice President.

Posted by: Chuck | August 19, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm happy to see Biden isn't trying to turn this into a political issue. He's reporting honestly what he's seen. It's pathetic how many of the leftist bloggers and their followers have tried to rationalize Russia's behavior in an attempt to win points against McCain.

As far as Obama's Veeps go:
Biden would help shore up his inexperience on foreign affairs.
Kaine might help him on governing since he has zero experience in that area too.
Frankly, I think the VP watch makes it even more clear that Obama's resume in terms of legislative experience, legislative accomplishments, life experience, character testing and defining experience, knowledge of foreign policy, knowledge of economics and business, bipartisan accomplishments, etc. is woefully inadequate. Whoever he picks will probably be more qualfied to be POTUS than he himself is.

Posted by: Rebecca O'Hare | August 19, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

So Biden as Obama's VP running mate would assure continuity of bipartisan harsh words about Russia.

Hard to know though whether this election is fundamentally about tough talk toward adversaries (defeating "Evil" as McCain styles it) or alleviating economic woes directly impacting Americans. If it's the economy, Kaine might be a better choice, since he presides over a state that, with the happy status Warner bequeathed, shows the way to realizing how clean, decent, effective governance helps immeasurably.

Still, Biden ain't McCain or his foreign policy handlers in addressing the world out there.

Posted by: First Mouse | August 19, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Simple fact is that Russia has bombed the daylights out of Georgia, and it is looking like the Russian troops are involved now in what is becoming an OCCUPATION. I cannot for the life of me see how Georgia would have made a decision to strike Russia first. Just does not make any sense to me at all, and doubtful that any newly democratized country in the region would take such a risk. Something smells rotten in the Eastern Block.
The idea that South Ossetia and Abkazia may have planned a secession from the Georgian state does not merit a full military action from Russia. Both regions are still partof a democracy. Recall how atvarious points in our own history various states attemted to seceed from the union. Itis an internal affair, and Russia does not have a right to interfere or aid in the process ESPECIALLY given Russia's former position as a Communist Hold on the region in question.
Pipelines running through the Georgian state are vital to the region and beyond. To not take this fact into account when assessing Russia's potential motives for the invasion is naive. Along with the 'crowning' of a new Russian president, one has to wonder if someone in Moscow is not trying to exert himself as a ruthless powerhouse who ought to be feared.
There is potential for eventual shipment of oil to Europe via Iraq and Afghanistan, and strategically, now would be the time for Russia to stir the pot and send out a warning for those nations that carry it's resources to Europe, that its economic intersts are not to be disrupted.

Posted by: jonibaloni | August 19, 2008 6:21 AM | Report abuse

The Georgian's were polled and half of them think that the blame falls equally with their own government as Russia...

but the Russians were wrong to show such a show of force...just as we were wrong for going into Iraq.

The difference is Georgia is not run by a despot.

Biden is right that Russia should not have invaded but he called Georgia and it's President out months ago...

Mccain is wrong because he made the situation worse...and I still have not heard him call for a single thing from the Georgians. That may be because his LEAD foreign policy advisor Scheunneman was the Georgian president's lobbyist in Washington when Joe Biden was calling the guy out...

Posted by: dl | August 19, 2008 4:59 AM | Report abuse

It is not the response from mccain...

it is his heated rhetoric and foreign policy chief...was a lobbyist for georgia who helped make the situation what it is today.

Biden is right and talked about a plan to deal with it non militarily FIRST....and look how he phrased it it...not like framing them as the new Cold War nazis...which is how John mccain has been alluding to them for months...

John McCain's heated rhetoric did not help the situation it made it worse.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 19, 2008 4:53 AM | Report abuse

Biden is right. The Russians played their hand and now the world knows their intent. The real question is how did it happen? Who was responsible for this mess developing? Where were those Republicans and their vaunted National Security expertise? Lots of bluster and flag-waving by chicken-hawks while they failed in every aspect of governing and managing the military.

We need to get those Bozos out of the White House and out of Congress before they REALLY mess things up!

Posted by: thebob.bob | August 19, 2008 2:39 AM | Report abuse

Senator Joe Biden has just demonstrated his lack of critical thinking, by choosing to listen to only one side of the story, and being influenced by it. Any common sense? It is not on the agenda. Here come the new hawks, ready to take on the ruskys, using double standards: Kosovo separation from Serbia = OK, Osethia and Abkazia separation from Georgia = Not OK.
The most troubling is the fact that we, the US support the Georgian leader who by ordering his troops to fire BM21 rockets into civilian population is not better than Milosevic (indicted war criminal).
It is so convenient to lecture Russia from this side of the Atlantic...
The Western Europeans have comon sense to approach Russia with caution - just look at the map! plus, without Russian oil and gas, they would all freeze in the winter.

Posted by: billiemoon | August 19, 2008 2:34 AM | Report abuse

lost in a vortex of me too. repug lite. If Biden gets chosen it will because he is clueless, works within the crumbling cookie. Should have gone to Russia too, but maybe he can wrachet things up enough where the Russians cut off the natural gas to Europe.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | August 18, 2008 10:27 PM | Report abuse

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