U.S. policy on Russia depends on conduct
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Russia's assault on Georgia will have repercussions for years to come.
Consequences that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said would occur from the Russia-Georgia war already have begun as the United States struggles to deal with the crisis. President Bush has been careful to avoid the particulars of subsequent repercussions, which should depend on Russia's conduct in the days and months ahead.
The hostility appears to have resulted in agreement, following lengthy negotiations, on an American anti- missile system in Poland. In announcing it, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said, "Only people of ill intent should fear this agreement."
The war resulted in cancellation of joint military exercises of Russia and the U.S. and is likely to block congressional action to allow a Russian spacecraft to transport American and other astronauts to and from an international space station.
Russia's intervention in separating the enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia is causing concern that similar assaults might follow in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave of Azerbaijan, Transnistria in Moldova and Crimea in Ukraine.
The Bush administration should have wide latitude in dealing with such issues but is not helped by the intrusion of Sen. John McCain, who was quick to call for Russia's expulsion from the G-8 group of industrial democracies and rejection of Russia's application to join the World Trade Organization.
In past election years, presidential candidates have deferred to the sitting president during developing crises. Both McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, vacationing here last week, placed appropriately supportive phone calls to the White House and to Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili.
McCain, whose top foreign policy adviser was a lobbyist for Georgia before joining the campaign, went a step further. "We are all Georgians," McCain declared, play-acting as president. He has been calling Saakashvili, a friend since his days as a student at George Washington University, several times a day, and brazenly announced that two of his supporters, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-S.C., and Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., would travel to Georgia's capital on his behalf.
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