Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks to the media about the conflict between Georgia and Russia in the driveway of the home he is staying Kailua, Hawaii, Monday, Aug. 11, 2008. Sen. Obama is in Hawaii for a vacation.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Putin Calls Shots to Salve Old Wounds

Georgian soldiers are seen after returning from Iraq, in Tbilisi, Georgia, Monday, Aug. 11, 2008. The U.S. military started flying some 2,000 Georgian troops home from Iraq on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008, after Georgia recalled them. Russian armored vehicles rolled deep into western Georgia on Monday, quickly taking control of several towns and a military base and slicing open a damaging second front in Russia\’s battle with Georgia. Other Russian forces captured the key central city of Gori.(AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)

Barack Obama while on vacation in Hawaii addressed the conflict in Georgia. He is demanding that Russia pull back out of Georgia proper and to desist from further conflict in the democratic country of Georgia. Russia is advancing on the central city of Gori in Georgia and is moving way beyond the dispute in South Ossetia. Here is Obama\’s statement today on the conflict:

Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the Conflict in Georgia
August 11, 2008

Good morning. The situation in Georgia continues to deteriorate because of the escalation of Russia\’s use of military force. I have spoken to President Saakashvili, and conveyed my deep regret over the loss of life, and the suffering of the people of Georgia.

For many months, I have warned that there needs to be active international engagement to peacefully address the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including a high-level and neutral international mediator, and a genuine international peacekeeping force – not simply Russian troops.

No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and invaded 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 to withdraw its ground forces from Georgia. The Georgian government has proposed a cease-fire and the Russian government should accept it. There is also an urgent need for humanitarian assistance to reach the people of Georgia, and casualties on both sides.

The United States, Europe and all other concerned countries must stand united in condemning this aggression, and seeking a peaceful resolution to this crisis. We should continue to push for a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence. This is a clear violation of the sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Georgia – the UN must stand up for the sovereignty of its members, and peace in the world.

I welcome the visit of the French and Finnish foreign ministers to Georgia as a first step toward mediation. There should also be a United Nations mediator to address this crisis, and the United States should fully support this effort. We should also convene other international forums to condemn this aggression, to call for an immediate halt to the violence, and to review multilateral and bilateral arrangements with Russia – including Russia\’s interest in joining the World Trade Organization.

The violence taking place along the Black Sea is just miles from Sochi, the site for the Winter Olympics in 2014. It only adds to the tragedy and outrage of the current situation that Russia has acted while the world has come together in peace and athletic competition in Beijing. This action is wholly inconsistent with the Olympic ideal.

While returning to a pre-August 8 military posture is a necessary first step to resolving this crisis, we cannot tolerate the unacceptable status quo that led to this escalation. That means Russian peacekeeping troops should be replaced by a genuine international peacekeeping force, Georgia should refrain from using force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and a political settlement must be reached that addresses the status of these disputed regions.

Going forward, the United States and Europe must support the people of Georgia. Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, we must provide economic assistance, and help rebuild what has been destroyed. I have consistently called for deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO, and we must continue to press for that deeper relationship.

The relationship between Russia and the West is long and complicated. There have been many turning points, for good and ill. This is another turning point.
Let me be clear: we seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government, and friendship with the Russian people. We want Russia to play its rightful role as a great nation – but with that role comes the responsibility to act as a force for progress in this new century, not regression to the conflicts of the past. That is why the United States and the international community must speak out strongly against this aggression, and for peace and security.

Russian troops seen near the village of Khurcha in Georgia\’s breakaway province of Abkhazia, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2008, heading toward the border with Georgia. Russia warned Monday Aug 11, that its troops in Georgia\’s breakaway province of Abkhazia will cross into the Georgian-controlled territory if Georgian troops in the area refuse to disarm. Georgian Security Council chief Alexander Lomaia said Gen. Sergei Chaban in charge of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia conveyed the demand Monday through U.N. military observers in the area.(AP Photo/Vladimir Popov)

Russia Steps Up Its Push; West Faces Tough Choices

Georgian soldiers are seen in a truck as they prepare to take positions on a road leading from Gori to Tbilisi, Georgia, Monday, Aug. 11, 2008. Russian armored vehicles rolled deep into central and western Georgia on Monday, quickly taking control of a key city, several towns and a military base, according to Georgian officials and witnesses. The reported capture of the key Georgian city of Gori and the towns of Senaki, Zugdidi and Kurga came despite a top Russian general\’s claim earlier Monday that Russia had no plans to enter Georgian territory.(AP P
hoto/Sergei Grits)


Video of fighting near Gori, Georgia:

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