President Bush, speaking from the Rose Garden, outlined the U.S. response to Russia's invasion of Georgia:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I've just met with my national security team to discuss the crisis in Georgia. I've spoken with President Saakashvili of Georgia, and President Sarkozy of France this morning. The United States strongly supports France's efforts, as President of the European Union, to broker an agreement that will end this conflict.
The United States of America stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia. We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.
Russia has stated that changing the government of Georgia is not its goal. The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment. Russia has also stated that it has halted military operations and agreed to a provisional cease-fire. Unfortunately, we're receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements. We're concerned about reports that Russian units have taken up positions on the east side of the city of Gori, which allows them to block the East-West Highway, divide the country, and threaten the capital of Tbilisi.
We're concerned about reports that Russian forces have entered and taken positions in the port city of Poti, that Russian armored vehicles are blocking access to that port, and that Russia is blowing up Georgian vessels. We're concerned about reports that Georgian citizens of all ethnic origins are not being protected. All forces, including Russian forces, have an obligation to protect innocent civilians from attack.
With these concerns in mind, I have directed a series of steps to demonstrate our solidarity with the Georgian people and bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict. I'm sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France, where she will confer with President Sarkozy. She will then travel to Tbilisi, where she will personally convey America's unwavering support for Georgia's democratic government. On this trip she will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia.
I've also directed Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to begin a humanitarian mission to the people of Georgia, headed by the United States military. This mission will be vigorous and ongoing. A U.S. C-17 aircraft with humanitarian supplies is on its way. And in the days ahead we will use U.S. aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies.
We expect Russia to honor its commitment to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance. We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads, and airspace, remain open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian transit. We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia. And we expect all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country.
As I have made clear, Russia's ongoing action raise serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region. In recent years, Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century. The United States has supported those efforts. Now Russia is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions. To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis.
Wow! Not just a strong condemnation of Russia, but strong action. Sending Condi makes a huge statement of solidarity, and more important sending humanitarian aid carried by US troops and naval forces is brilliant. There will soon be thousands of American troops on the ground, making it impossible for the Russians to renew their offensive without risking major conflict with a far more powerful adversary. Those troops will not be withdrawn until the Russians pull out.
What makes this even more brilliant -- the Russians are badly overextended. There is only one real line of communication open to them, the Roki tunnel [here]. A single missile strike can take that out, and then they will be trapped. Putin took a very dangerous risk. He put his forces into an untenable situation on the assumption that the Americans would not react, especially since President Bush only has a few months to go in his term of office. But that was a bad bet.
Bush has stood up strong and proud in this situation; he is getting strong support from France; the Georgian government has not fallen; and finally other former Soviet states did not run for cover -- instead the presidents of the Baltic States and Poland have flown to Tiblisi to demonstrate their solidarity with Georgia. A united front opposing Russian aggression is beginning to form with Bush and Sarkozy at its head.
Unless Bush loses his resolve, something he has never done in the past, this whole enterprise is going to turn out badly for Putin.
It is beginning to dawn on people that Bush does diplomacy better than anyone else on the world stage today.
Richard Fernandez explains the brilliance of Bush's response to Putin's challenge:
The US decision to send a military airlift into Tsibilsi and dispatch a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies sends a signal eerily reminiscent of the 1948 Berlin Airlift. The use of military and naval assets simultaneously lays the framework for future action with the same vehicles. Like Putin’s cooing threats, the humanitarian effort is intentionally ambiguous. Vladimir Putin has told America to “choose” between Russia and Georgia. He was really asking the United States to choose between conflict and appeasement. By sending a mini-Berlin airlift into Georgia, Bush is giving no answer, only repeating the question: Mr. Putin, choose — choose what comes next.Read it here.