Georgia: U.S. Congress Postpones Resolution Critical Of Russian Behavior
By Andrew Tully
WASHINGTON -- Debate has been postponed indefinitely on a nonbinding resolution in the U.S. Congress that accuses Russia of being responsible for "provocative and dangerous statements and actions" against Georgia.
Technically, the discussion and voice vote on May 5 was a debate, but only three members of the House of Representatives spoke for the resolution, and no one spoke against it.
The legislators, echoing the resolution itself, spoke of efforts by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to resolve the matter through negotiations, and portrayed Russian President Vladimir Putin as being the provocateur.
Representative Diane Watson (Democrat, California) said the recent incidents in Abkhazia revealed Putin as an aggressor and Saakashvili as a negotiator.
"Such hostile actions are in stark contrast to the recent attempts made by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to find a peaceful and lasting solution to this conflict in the Caucasus," she said. "As he rightfully stated, there are no issues that we and the Abkhazians cannot solve through negotiations."
Watson was particularly critical of Russian moves to strengthen legal and trade ties with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and she called on Putin to accept Saakashvili's call for negotiations on Georgia's two breakaway regions.
Representative Ted Poe (Republican, Texas) said it's time for the U.S. government to abandon any hope that Russia will act in good faith on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He said any observer must conclude that Moscow is intent on punishing Georgia.
"I believe that there was a time when we could honestly hope that Russia was playing a fair and supportive role with regard to the resolution of the separatist conflicts in the Republic of Georgia," he said. "Unfortunately, our optimism in that regard is almost exhausted. It now appears obvious that Russia seeks to play a destabilizing role in Georgia, with the goal of undermining Georgia's political and economic development and ultimately its own sovereignty."
Representative Allyson Schwartz (Democrat, Pennsylvania) said she felt compelled to speak out in defense of Georgia's sovereignty, given the recent behavior of Russia, particularly in Abkhazia. Schwartz argued that Moscow's intentions are more sinister than they may appear.
"This is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by Russia to append these regions, which are part of the sovereign nation of Georgia," she said. "This action was denounced by the international community, including the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO to all of us. Nonetheless, Russia remained unfazed by international opinion and further escalated tensions in the region just four days later."
It was then that, according to Georgian authorities, Russia shot down one of its unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Georgian territory.
Schwartz referred to Georgia as one of the strongest allies of the United States in the Caucasus, and she said it's important for Washington to stand by such a close friend.
No one spoke against the resolution, but several members of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe objected last week that its language was overly harsh.
The measure was subjected to a voice vote on May 5, but the vote was nullified because of a lack of a quorum. The measure was then postponed indefinitely.
Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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