Georgia, Russia and the U.S. Presidential Election

With the massive deployment of Russian forces in Georgia, the small South Caucasus country's conflict with Moscow over the breakaway region of South Ossetia has obvious political ramifications thousands of miles away in the United States where presidential elections will be held on 4 November. With some alleging that the crisis reflects a struggle between the West and Russia, where the U.S. Presidential candidates stand on the matter is fast becoming a significant campaign issue.

While Republican candidate John McCain takes a firm anti-Russian stand, the Democratic Party's Barack Obama is more neutral on the matter and calls for restraint from both Georgia and Russia. At the heart of the matter is the perpetual debate over foreign policy and Western energy interests in the region as well as U.S. military support for Georgia.

Across The Pond examines other reasons for the differences in approach. The blog run by Deutsche Welle also solicits the opinion of its readers.

What's the reason for the different reactions by McCain and Obama? As Martin writes, the McCain camp sees a “commander-in chief opportunity” for their candidate. But, adds Martin, Obama's team also sees an opportunity: To show that McCain is beholden once again to lobbying interests. His foreign policy adviser Randy Scheuneman lobbied for Georgia from 2003 until recently.

But what do you think? Who has the better argument on the Russia-Georgia conflict McCain or Obama?

Making the question a political hot potato is the question of U.S. foreign policy. The Washington Note clearly blames the U.S. for the events in motion today.

When Kosovo declared independence and the US and other European states recognized it — thus sidestepping Russia's veto in the United Nations Security Council — many of us believed that the price for Russian cooperation in other major global problems just went much higher and that the chance of a clash over Georgia's breakaway border provinces increased dramatically.


It is possible that Condoleezza Rice's July 10th visit to Tbilisi and joint press conference with Saakashvili was interpreted by him that American power and resolve were firmly behind Georgia and its intention to reassert control over the autonomous provinces. The Georgian president miscalculated about American power in the world today and our resolve to take on Russia directly — no matter how much the Washington Post's Fred Hiatt and Anne Applebaum would like to see the situation differently.

While the seeds of this conflict between Georgia and Russia had been planted long ago, the U.S. helped engineer events that are now undermining its own interests and the global perception of American power.

Other bloggers are also starting to comment on the positions of the two U.S. presidential candidates. The Carpetbagger Report says that McCain's position is alarming.

Obama, calling for restraint and condemning the “outbreak of violence,” also criticized Russia for having “invaded Georgia’s sovereign” and having “encroached on Georgia’s sovereignty.” Obama’s line was largely consistent with that of the Bush White House, the European Union, NATO, and a series of European powers.

John McCain took a different line, which, as Smith noted, “put him more closely in line with the moral clarity and American exceptionalism projected by President Bush’s first term.”


Wait, would-be presidents should appreciate nuance when dealing with an international crisis? Credible candidates should be able to recognize gray areas in complex parts of Eastern Europe? Thoughtful would-be leaders need not to rush to view the world as a series of good guys and bad guys?


Let’s be clear: if McCain the Candidate is a reliable indicator of what we can expect from McCain the President, the presumptive Republican nominee would apparently be anxious to exacerbate the burgeoning war, and antagonize Russia.

There’s a lot going on right now, but this is a very important development in the presidential campaign. Ben Smith characterized this as a “true ‘3 a.m. moment’” for the presidential candidates. And at this point, McCain is once again looking pretty scary.

Donklephant also sides with Obama.

Obama sides with Georgia, but takes a more diplomatic stance and is carefully to not vilify Russia…


McCain is much more pointed and has no problem making Russia the bad guy…


Personally, I’m in favor of the Obama approach, because Georgia’s hands certain aren’t clean in all of this, and even the Bush administration has stated as much…


Long story short, Obama’s approach gives us more flexibility to negotiate with Russia, while McCain’s draws a line in the sand with empty threats that Russia could easily ignore. Why? Because there’s virtually no chance we’ll stick our necks out for a country like Georgia…not when they tried to capture the capital of South Ossetia, but have since been pushed back by Russia’s overwhelming military might. This is a VERY local skirmish, and I can guarantee you that Americans want absolutely NO part of it.

Blogger Interrupted also uses the crisis in Georgia to argue the case for an Obama presidency.

[…] Georgia could become a microcosm of the foreign policy debate this year – a Bush-McCain policy, dominated by knee jerk platitudes, vs. the diplomatic seriousness of Barack Obama, dominated by an increasingly obvious instinct to negotiate. The consequences in the Caucasus could be far reaching, and be yet another repeat of cowboy diplomacy spinning out of American control.


Did I mention that both Armenia and Azerbaijan border Iran? And oh yeah, the main pipeline moving Azeri oil to market goes through Georgia.

Dominoes could fall in the Caucasus rapidly, and with a lot of blood, and inflationary effects on the price of oil, if the US plays the cards it is dealt the way John McCain seeks to play them. Even the Bush administration, in weary lame-duck status, sees this differently than John McCain, their statement being similar to Obama’s.

Bottom line, this situation requires clear-eyed and urgent diplomacy to make it stop. If it doesn’t stop soon, no one can predict where the end game lies. John McCain may need to shore up his base by pandering to the Instapundit democracy-as-tonic wannabes, but it will not save anyone’s democracy, and may imperil democracy in places other than Georgia.

And Republican spawned, unpredictable end games sure have gotten us far, haven’t they?

The Elephant Bar disagrees and says that conflict between Russia and Georgia exposes Obama's weakness in times of an international crisis.

Seize the moment. Expose to the American people the incredible shrinking stature of the man who would be POTUS in times of war. He has nothing to say and knows nothing of how we find ourselves in this situation. […]

Do not get me wrong. McCain is no novice to the region and has not always been right in his decisions. […] Now, I find myself in the awkward position presented by the binary world of American politics in having to choose between a man that does not have a clue and one who has made decisions where I disagreed.

We have committed the United States to supporting freedom and democracy in parts of the world where there has been little of either. Georgia is where that decision has led us. We have trained them, armed them and encouraged their movement into Nato. Russia is now striking back. Georgia is the new Kosovo. What happens in Georgia will have unknown consequences to Europe and the United States for a generation. […]

Prairie Pundit simply says that South Ossetia exposes Obama's “wimpy side.”

I know Obama is following he same posture as the Bush administration. But isn't he the guy that says we need change?

Meanwhile, The Russia Blog simply says that “McCain's Wrong on Russia… And So Is Obama.”

Cross posted on Global Voices Online.


  • […] of U.S. presidential candidates on the military conflict between Georgia and Russia has now been cross-posted on Voices Without Votes, an online citizen media project from Global Voices Online and Reuters. Although the post details […]

  • In the 21st century Nations Do Not Invade Other Nations
    I hate the gooks McCain admits
    “I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live,” – John McCain, when asked about his continued use of the racial slur, “gook.”
    The American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq doesn’t count as an invasion, because “Gooks” populate these so-called nations. As sub humans do not qualify as citizens in a sovereign state, they can be bombed until they die or go away.
    “We are all Georgians,” McCain says. He means, “We are all white people.”
    McCain’s racist warmongering boils down to the Red Menace and the Yellow Peril. Three generations have absorbed these slogans as mothers’ milk.
    Obama is toast.

  • The beginning of the great war and the end of Evil is near

    Although this is not my true wish my children are military bound and I do not believe in killing but, we are in a state of complete meltdown worldwide as far as food, economics, financial, health care, immigration, aids, education, government corruption and so on. I now believe we are in the process of the last great war for another 250 years should it explode and follow the potential route accross the middle east, throughout Africa, South America all before ever hitting Russia, Europe and the US. The greatest war destruction in order to create world structure, end poverty and find everlasting peace will only happen once a consolidation of all nations understanding of what works and an international understanding of citizens rights to choose their own paths even when that is not democracy. The war will encompass more than 50 countries, kill more than 1.9 Billion people in Africa and India, 1 billion in Asia and another 200 million world wide. The self sufficiency required to survive in Africa will create a new generation of success for Africans and southern China both being Autonomous regions with new freedoms through out late 2016 through 2100. We are about to see the destruction of systems that believe they have a right to force their rights onto others. We will see the end of 450 years of Financial control from the Jewish family’s in Europe, the US and Russia that have been capable of using propaganda since the late 1800’s to manipulate world activities and claim anyone against those facts is anti-semetic. We are at the end of the false religion of Islamic/Muslim life styles. The creation of the religion meant to control arabs from becoming christians and leaving the arab Kings became one of the worlds largest religions. The lie’s told to enhance self destruction, and the destruction of women all for the power of men will be exposed for the destroying of millions of young men running to kill themselves for 72 virgins in one of the greatest scams in human history. The end of a world following a book that began as the beginning of freedom and peace was taken over again by men in fear of losing control and a proud beginning became a partial truth, a destruction of the potential of woman’s part in Christianity, the missing messages from other writers and the factual claim which allowed for an entire country to force its way back into a land they were driven from 2000 years ago destroying millions of lives in the process, possible sacrificing its own people in beginning the WWII first declaration of War and has forced all societies to pay money back to a group of people that claim 6 million deaths when the rest of the world lost as many as 80 million with no reparations for the rest of the world. These types of attacks against the humanity of this world will be repaid because of their own doing not because of hate against anyone. Again the groups that have created a culture of hate by claims of hate has been the greatest instigators and creators of Policy’s of hate in the US and around the world. The groups claiming to be the saviors of minorities have used the minorities for their money and votes for the past 40 years fooling millions.

    The upcoming war will stop the lie’s, stop the pushing of peoples values to create un-natural ways of life pushed into the open expectation of our children, personal choices of life, destructive visions of life and many other life altering methods in this world have destroyed lives throughout history time and time again but this will be the complete destruction of these ways of life as an open push on society. We are about to witness a level of Freedom for all in the world whom choose to have it. Freedom of education, freedom of living for our children, freedom of economics and freedom of life and death. We as a world shall understand whom and what are the important needs and we will never be subject to the destruction of self absorbed, selfish, exaggerated, greedy life styles, leadership and authority again. We will see clear understanding and honest government for the people and safety and expansion of the youth of all societies. We shall see financing for the benefit of the consumer not the financier. The inventors of the current financing system for the last 200 – 300 years will never have the opportunity to control society, governments, wars, media, life and death again.

    The war will unfortunately kill literally billions. Many not directly but indirectly. The casualties of war that die quickly will be some of the fortunate souls. The benefactors in the Africa’s and other poor regions will go through tough times but will be some of the greatest survivors in the next 50 years. We are at the tip of war and the tip of a new beginning for billions. We shall see the end and the beginning of economic territories. We are not going to be the greatest area of the world if we continue to believe we are above the rest of the world. We must care for our people first, our culture and allow all parts of the world to become self sufficient before we create equal trading partners with the rest of the world. We are to be seperate country’s and their will be many new country’s forming within the united states assuring the protection of cultures which is a positive good thing say’s 90% of those americans asked, the only one’s believing it is a poor decision are those currently active in Politics or were Gay or Liberal. 99% of blacks, whites, Indians, Mexican, Spanish, old and young all answered we can all be friends, those who want to mix can but if we all had our own cultures it assures the strength of each of us. This will be a known understanding in our new world. Their will be many mixture of races for those that choose but no one will be forced via law, no one will be forced via religion or by the groups like the ACLU whom is an EVIL anti God, anti, equality, Anti-american and anti-world self sufficiency organization. They will be destroyed which will happen and they will never have the support to re organize after the new beginning. I look forward to our open fight to help everyone during this coming war. Stop the pein, help those who need it and lets get this over with.

    Anthony Riordan
    [email protected]

  • Nobama Girl

    I don’t think Iraq was a sovereign nation when it was attacked. It was a nation run by a dictator, wasn’t it?

    And, to say that “We are all Georgians,” means we are all white people…I think he means we are all people living in a democracy, people that deserve freedom.

    If McCain is a racist why did he adopt a black child 17 years ago?

    And, the bad guy is not just Russia…He’s talking about Putin. Putin, the PM not the President of Russia…orchestrated this.

    When McCain sees Putin he sees KGB.

    And, sorry kids..but you have look to the past (history) to be able to discern what the future brings.

  • Not voting in fear anymore

    No, you must not look PAST history you must learn FROM history. What we are doing is not working. The days of Black or White – Right or Wrong – Good or Evil – Republican or Democrat thinking needs to end within this democracy. We must practice what we preach. We try to teach our children to have compassion, compromise, restraint, respect for self and others, etc. Yet, what understanding, compassion, restraint, and/or respect have we demonstrated within our country, government, and in the world? In the past 8 years we have practiced none of that, doesn’t matter what side of the coin you are on.

    Instead of making well thought out decisions we have acted in rash, anger, and fear both in war and at the polls. What are we getting out of behaving this way? We need to let other countries come to us for help not just say, “We are here to fight for you and free you whether you want it or not.” Who freed the American people? Was in France? Europe? Spain? No, it was the the American people and we went to France and Spain for help not the other way around. No one forced democracy on us. Who has freed the Iraqi people? Who has prepared them for a democracy not just in the language of “freedom” but educating them as to what that freedom is going to cost them? Democracy while being a good system is not a perfect one and with it comes its own set of trials but what we flaunt is perfection, wealth, and power.

    Meanwhile back home middle class citizens like my family are struggling to make ends meat, pay for a doctor visit due to lack of insurance, have less than a few exhausted hours a day to try and raise our children right because all day long we are at work. Do we think Iraqi women are going to be prepared to go work 40+ hours per week because her husbands job doesn’t pay the bills at yet he still makes a couple hundred dollars too much a year to qualify for assistance which would allow her to stay home and raise their children. “Put in on a credit card or set up a payment plan” our country says to the struggling middle class citizen. I don’t know if that is what people in Mexico, Iraq, Iran, or any other non-democratic nation thinks of when the think of freedom. Do we tell these all too common stories of freedom to the world? No we don’t.

    I feel we have disillusioned ourselves. Yes we have many many opportunities but those opportunities are not equal today. We offer support to the poor, more money to the rich, and sit back afraid to make changes or take a calculated risk as the gap between rich and poor grows and we lose our respect in the world as well as losing our middle class which is what keeps this economy strong. Fear of losing power and clout in the international community should be less of a concern and doing the right thing should be our priority. We should be setting not just economical and military standards; we should be setting the gold standard of what democracy is all about: CHOICE, RESPECT, COMPASSION, COMPROMISE, HOPE, and so on.

    Yes, sometimes that means taking a risk, voting for values you believe in not just a political party name that you feel you are required to vote for because you always have in the past. It also means reaching out to your fellow American and being will to shake hands with them even though they may be different or believe different than you. It is those core beliefs that make me want to vote for Barack Obama. He represents a different direction for us that includes the values I believe in. He doesn’t accept money from lobbyists nor does he act in absolutes and that is okay with me. In fact, I am glad he takes the time to weight decision and not just act on impulse. That is a skill, not a fault.

    However, if you are okay with our future president getting millions of dollars in campaign money from lobbyist, vote for McCain. If you want to continue fighting and going into a debt for a war that we cannot end without diplomacy, vote for McCain. If you agree that a woman should not have the right to choose, vote for McCain. If you want to start more wars in more nations in order to continue to flex the proverbial American muscles while our economy flounders, vote McCain. Last, if you want to live your life and make decisions based in fear and skepticism, you know how to vote.

    Just know that those are things you are asking for. Be informed when you vote, please. Go to candidates websites. Ask questions, get real answers. Participate in this process thoughfully and responsibly.

    ***off my soap box***

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