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US concedes Kremlin’s first military response in Georgia was “legitimate”

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DEBKA File
Friday, August 22, 2008

The US ambassador to Moscow, endorsing Russia’s initial moves in Georgia, described the Kremlin’s first military response as legitimate after Russian troops came under attack.

This was the first positive statement by an American official about Moscow’s first response to the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia, after a string of condemnations from the heads of the Bush administration. It came from US ambassador John Beyrle, who arrived in Moscow last month, in an interview published by the Russian daily Kommersant Friday, Aug. 22.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly disclosed Friday in its lead article that Washington and Moscow are working quietly and intensively to set up a summit between President George W. Bush and Russian prime minister Vladimir Put to bring crisis-ridden US-Russian relations back on an even keel. (Both Powers Push for a Bush-Putin Summit.)

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Ambassador Beyrle’s words were the first public departure by a US official from the critical remarks of Moscow’s conduct heard uniformly from Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates.

The ambassador said Washington had not sanctioned Georgia’s initial actions when on Aug. 8, after a succession of tense skirmishes, Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia, triggering a massive Russian reaction when its peacekeepers came under fire.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

“We did not want to see a recourse to violence and force and we made that very, very clear,” said Beyrle. “The fact that we were trying to convince the Georgian side not to take this step is clear evidence that we did not want all this to happen,” he said.

DEBKAfile: This was the first US admission that Georgia was the aggressor in South Ossetia and showed cracks in their hitherto solid support for president Mikhail Saakashvili.

Beyrle said Washington still supports Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization – an official departure from implied American threats to punish Moscow by international isolation.

The US ambassador’s interview was run in the same Russian paper which quoted Syrian president Bashar Assad on Wednesday, as announcing he was willing to accept Russian missile bases in his country. Beyrle’s words look like a bid to halt the deterioration in Russo-American relations before they veer out of control in a second global arena.

In another telling remark, the US ambassador said: “We have seen the destruction of civilian infrastructure, as well as calls by some Russian politicians to change the democratically-elected government of Georgia. That is why we believe that Russia has gone too far.”

The subtext here, say DEBKAfile’s sources, is that if Moscow continues to pull troops out of Georgia and does not threaten the country’s integrity and regime, Russian and US leaders can do business.

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This article was posted: Friday, August 22, 2008 at 12:20 pm





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