Last Updated 8/26 8:40 PM EST

Earlier this month when presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain declared “we are all Georgians,” it is unclear if he was referring to the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Yet today the Bush Administration made it clear that this was to be America’s official position on the matter, whether the residents of those regions want to be or not.

Today, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and ordered the foreign ministry to open talks on establishing diplomatic ties. The move comes just one day after both houses of Russia’s parliament unanimously voted to urge him to issue such a decree.

President Bush issued a statement condemning the move as irresponsible, saying it violated the ceasefire deal Russia signed earlier in the month. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice termed the decree “extremely unfortunate,” and vowed that the United States would use its position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to veto any recognition of the independence of either breakaway province.

The mood was considerably less sombre within Tskhinvali and Sukhumi, as excited people took to the streets waving flags in celebration and praising the Russian declaration. Though earlier this week Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili vowed to rebuild his military and reclaim the enclaves, President Medvedev promised to protect them from any future attacks and South Ossetia’s leader planned to ask Russia to set up a military base in his territory.

This marks another major downturn in US-Russian relations, already tense after the recent US missile shield agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic. President Medvedev insisted he was not afraid of the prospect of another Cold War, as rumors swirled that the planned docking of two US warships in Poti, a city still partially under Russian control, had been put on hold. The Russian government has expressed concerns that the ships were loaded down with weapons for the Georgian military, an accusation the White House rejected as “ridiculous”.

compiled by Jason Ditz

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