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Marcus and Lowry Weigh Reactions to Georgia Crisis

The Georgia-Russia conflict has put the foreign policy skills of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama to the test. Analysts Ruth Marcus and Rich Lowry weigh the candidate responses and other political news of the week.

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  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Since the fighting between Russia and Georgia began, John McCain and Barack Obama have been quick to respond to developments. McCain spoke first last Friday, even before official White House reaction, and blamed Russia.

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory. What is most critical now is to avoid further confrontation between Russian and Georgian military forces. The consequences of Euro-Atlantic stability and security are grave.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Obama speaking later that afternoon urged calm on both sides.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: I wholeheartedly condemn the violation of Georgia's sovereignty. I think it is important at this point for all sides to show restraint and to stop this armed conflict.

    Georgia's territorial integrity needs to be preserved. And now is the time for direct talks between the various parties on behalf of stability.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But on Monday, Obama sharpened his criticism of Russia, as its forces undertook bombing inside Georgia and Russian troops moved into another separatist enclave, Abkhazia. He spoke during his vacation in Hawaii.

  • SEN. BARACK OBAMA:

    No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and — and has now violated the space of another country.

    Russia has escalated its military campaign through strategic bombing and the movement of its ground forces into the heart of Georgia. There is no possible justification for these attacks.

    I reiterate my call for Russia to stop its bombing campaign, to stop flights of Russian aircraft in Georgian airspace, and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    On Tuesday at a town hall in Pennsylvania, McCain related a conversation he'd had with Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    And he wanted me to say thank you to you, to give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American people for this tiny, little democracy, far away from the United States of America. And I told him…

    And I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, "Today, we are all Georgians."

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Wednesday brought a statement from Obama calling on Russia to comply with its cease-fire with Georgia, saying, "The situation is still unstable, and Russia must back up its commitment to stop its violence and violation of Georgia's sovereignty with actions, not just words."

    "The United States should now join our European partners in direct high-level diplomacy with both Georgia and Russia to seek immediate implementation of a cease-fire and to achieve a lasting resolution to this crisis."

    While McCain reinforced his commitment to Georgia at an event in Michigan…

  • SEN. JOHN MCCAIN:

    I want to have a dialogue with the Russians. I want them to get out of Georgian territory as quickly as possible. And I am interested in good relations between the United States and Russia.

    But in the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations. And we will decide in subsequent days as what degree of provocation, and what — who was right and who was wrong. But you cannot justify the extent and the degree of the Russian intervention in Georgia. And so we need to obviously show solidarity.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    McCain also announced this week two of his highest profile supporters, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, will go to Georgia on his behalf. Throughout the week, each candidate avoided criticizing the other's statements on the conflict.

    Their campaigns, however, have traded barbs over the issue of McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, who was a paid lobbyist for Georgia until March.

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