The United States is reportedly mulling further steps against Russia beyond the move announced earlier this month suspending a US-Russia civilian nuclear pact. It is unclear what these further measures might include, but State Department official William Burns told the Senate Wednesday that “we continue to review other options”.
In a speech before the German Marshall Fund, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted that the United States and Europe must unite to ensure that none of the consequences of last month’s brief Russia-Georgia War benefit Russia in any way.
Rice condemned the Russian government as increasingly aggressive and authoritarian and insisted that the removal of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili from power was Russia’s “primary war aim”. As Rice made it clear that America’s “strategic goal” is to ensure that Russia doesn’t accomplish any of its aims in the conflict, this would appear to make it a central matter of US foreign policy not just to ensure that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are never seen as independent internationally, but that Saakashvili’s administration remains in power.
Georgia’s NATO membership is already being held up by concerns about its democratic bonafides. With Georgia’s opposition expressing increasing disquiet about Saakashvili’s role in the disastrous conflict and some openly calling for his ouster, it would seem that an American policy designed to prop up his regime over domestic objections simply to spite Russia is only going to raise further questions about its suitability as a NATO member nation.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev insists that the two nations can repair damage ties and that irrespective of what he called “a number of fundamentally different approaches to certain international issues” he believed that a pragmatic, common sense approach could reduce tensions. He says that improving relations with the United States remain a “priority area” for Russia.
Rice however mocked Russia as an isolated and increasingly irrelevant power. She pointed to the relative lack of international recognition for Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence and said its recent military exercises with Venezuela consisted of “a few, aging Blackjack bombers”. She also said that Russia would have to accept the “hard truth” if it “ever wants to be more than just an energy supplier”.
So far though, despite the stepped up rhetoric, further US moves against Russia remain only speculative. Several European Union diplomats however have expressed opposition to restarting its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia in spite of an EU-brokered agreement last week on replacing Russian troops in the buffer zone between Georgia and the breakaway enclaves with EU monitors.