Global Politics

US again pressures Russia to withdraw

On the road where I was, I saw a number of Russian checkpoints, one as close as 22 miles to the Georgian capitol. But the fact on the ground is that Russian armed forces are still deep within Georgian territory. (We're hearing these Russian soldiers are pushing aside Georgian military vehicles. That must be a deep humiliation.) I spoke to a Georgian policeman and I asked about that. He said it was difficult psychologically. He said you have to remember that for a long time Russians and Georgians were brothers and Georgians don't want a conflict. He said he would not give up Tbilisi. (Did you ask Russians the same questions?) Yes, and I got the same sense of a total lack of animosity. One soldier said he felt more welcomed in Georgia than in Chechnya, for example. So Georgia feels that it's under occupation but there's a complete lack of animosity amongst the rank and file. (Do the Russian soldiers know what they're doing there?) Actually, some feel they have not much idea of their mission. (Condoleezza Rice said the culprit in this conflict is Russia. Are Georgians assigning culpability to their President at all for perhaps overplaying his hand?) There are some who are doing that, yes. They feel this conflict is unnecessary and the President is foolish for trying to take on Russia. That said, I don't feel the President is loosing a lot of support, he won the election in January and the idea behind this failed military campaign to incorporate South Ossetia was a popular one. It should be said that Russia believes firmly that the U.S. and the West have got the culpability completely wrong for this conflict, and that Russia was acting fairly in protecting civilians in South Ossetia, most of whom have Russian passports and consider themselves Russian citizens.

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