George Bush says America stands with the democratically-elected government in
Georgia in the face of what he calls Russian bullying and intimidation. VOA
White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush again called on Russia
to withdraw its troops.
Since the end of the Cold War, President Bush says Russia
has tended to view the expansion of freedom and democracy as a threat to its
Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House that
the days of satellite states and spheres of influence are over, and Russia's
attacks in Georgia have damaged its credibility.
intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st
century," the president said. "Only Russia can decide whether it will now put
itself back on the path of responsible nations, or continue to pursue a policy
that promises only confrontation and isolation."
Mr. Bush says he hopes
Russia's leaders recognize that a future of cooperation and peace benefits all
parties and he says a contentious relationship between Russia and America is in
neither nation's interest.
Russian forces continue to control the Georgia
city of Gori with tanks and military vehicles blocking access to Georgian
authorities who have tried to re-enter the abandoned city. Russian officials
told reporters they are busy providing humanitarian assistance.
President Mikheil Saakashvili told CNN Thursday that Russian troops occupy
one-third of his country.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in
the Georgian capital for talks with President Saakashvili in hopes of reaching
agreement on a cease-fire that ensures the withdrawal of Russian troops from
areas outside the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and
President Bush will meet with Rice at his Texas ranch Friday
evening for a briefing on her trip, which also included talks in France with
President Nicholas Sarkozy. Mr. Bush says Rice, in Tbilisi, expressed America's
wholehearted support for Georgia's democracy.
"The United States and our
allies stand with the people of Georgia and their democratically-elected
government," Mr. Bush said. "Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity
must be respected. Moscow must honor its commitment to withdraw its invading
forces from all Georgian territory."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the
world can forget about Georgia's territorial integrity, as President Dmitri
Medvedev Thursday met with leaders of the breakaway republics.
House spokeswoman Dana Perino dismissed the Russian Foreign Minister's statement
as "bluster" that Washington will ignore.
President Bush says some
Americans may wonder why events in a small country halfway around the world
matter to the United States. He says Georgia has become a courageous democracy
since the fall of the Soviet Union, holding free elections and opening up its
"Georgia has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq to help others
achieve the liberty that they struggled so hard to attain," he said. "To further
strengthen its democracy, Georgia has sought to join the free institutions of
the West. The people of Georgia have cast their lot with the free world, and we
will not cast them aside."
President Bush has ordered the U.S. military
to begin a humanitarian relief mission in Georgia and he expects Russia to honor
its commitment to ensure that all lines of communication and transport,
including seaports, airports, roads and airspace remain open for the delivery of
assistance and for civilian transit.