Putin: U.S. spurred on Georgian offensive

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the U.S. did nothing to stop the Georgian offensive even after he appealed directly to President George W. Bush.

Addressing foreign experts on Russia in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Mr. Putin said America’s massive financial and military aid to Georgia had emboldened Tbilisi to try and retake South Ossetia by force.

“They pushed [Georgia’s President Mikheil] Saakashvili into this criminal aggression,” said Mr. Putin, adding: “They [the U.S.] have come to like firing and bombing so much that they thought it would work here [in Georgia] too. But if it did not work in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Middle East [West Asia], why did they think it would work this time around? They failed, and will fail in future too, if they think this [war] is the most effective instrument of foreign policy.”

Mr. Putin revealed that after Georgian troops attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, he had twice spoken to Mr. Bush in Beijing, where they both attended the Olympic Games, expecting the U.S. to react. The first time they spoke about six hours after Georgia launched its offensive and Mr. Bush said: “Nobody wants a war.” Several hours later, they spoke again during the Games opening ceremony.

“It would be wrong for me to tell you exactly what was said, but it became clear to me from the evening conversation that the U.S. had done nothing and was not willing to do anything [to stop Georgia],” said Mr. Putin.

After this episode, Russia mounted a swift and devastating counter-offensive, completely routing the Georgian Army.

Mr. Putin clearly did not want to blame Mr. Bush for the U.S. failure to act, describing him as a man of great decency and integrity, but suggested the U.S. leader was controlled by his hawkish advisers.

“It’s the court which makes the king,” said Mr. Putin, adding: “Maybe the court decided that the king should not intervene…”

Mr. Putin rejected the West’s criticism of what was described as Russia’s “disproportionate response” to the Georgian attack. “Were we supposed to just wipe away the bloody snot from our face and hang our heads?” he said.

“What is a proportionate use of force? When tanks, multiple rocket-launchers and heavy artillery are used against us, are we supposed to fire with sling shots,” he asked sarcastically.

Mr. Putin also lashed out at U.S. plans to rearm Georgia. He said: “Why do they want to rearm the Georgian regime? To encourage it stage more acts of aggression?”

[Source: By Vladimir Radyuhin , The Hindu, Moscow, 15Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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