U.S. Forces Entering Georgia On Aid Mission;
Bush Warns Russian Military Not To Block Americans
Bush Hints Russia May Be Kicked Out Of G-8 For Its Persistent Aggression In Georgia
President Bush announced he is sending U.S. armed forces to Georgia with humanitarian aid for the embattled nation, and warned Russian invaders not to block free movement of the Americans.
Bush’s comments came after Russian troops roared into Georgia, a former Soviet Union satellite state, and effectively cut the small nation in half.
In his comments, as he was flanked by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush warned Russia not to interfere with U.S. forces when the enter Georgia.
"We expect Russia to honor its commitment to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance," Bush cautioned. "We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads, and airspace, remain open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian transit.
"We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia. And we expect all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country."
Bush described the coming U.S. military mission to Georgia.
He said he has directed Gates "to begin a humanitarian mission to the people of Georgia, headed by the United States military. This mission will be vigorous and ongoing. As I have made clear, Russia’s ongoing [actions] raise serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region."
The U.S. military aid intervention will involve both the Air Force and Navy.
"A U.S. C-17 aircraft with humanitarian supplies is on its way," Bush said. "And in the days ahead we will use U.S. aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies."
While Russian President Dmitry Medvedev assured French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Russia would cease its march into Georgia, since then there have been fresh reports of further Russian assaults.
"The United States of America stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia," Bush said. "We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected."
Georgia has been a pro-Western country, and is seen friendly to the United States.
"Russia has stated that changing the government of Georgia is not its goal," Bush observed. "The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment. Russia has also stated that it has halted military operations and agreed to a provisional cease-fire."
If that were true, it would be welcome, Bush indicated, but the facts indicate otherwise.
"Unfortunately, we’re receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements," he said. "We’re concerned about reports that Russian units have taken up positions on the east side of the city of Gori, which allows them to block the East-West Highway, divide the country, and threaten the capital of Tbilisi.
"We’re concerned about reports that Russian forces have entered and taken positions in the port city of Poti, that Russian armored vehicles are blocking access to that port, and that Russia is blowing up Georgian vessels. We’re concerned about reports that Georgian citizens of all ethnic origins are not being protected. All forces, including Russian forces, have an obligation to protect innocent civilians from attack."
As an immediate U.S. response, Rice headed to France to meet with Sarkozy, and then to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, "where she will personally convey America’s unwavering support for Georgia’s democratic government," Bush said. "On this trip she will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia."
Longer range, Bush hinted that Russia may be punished for its aggression by being ousted from the Group of Eight Nations, including the largest economies on Earth, if Moscow doesn’t pull its troops back from that small nation.
For many years, that exclusive club of countries was the Group of Seven — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — until Russia was admitted to make it the Group of Eight.
Appearing in the White House Rose Garden, Bush said Russia is sliding back from progress it made toward integrating into the global economy.
"In recent years, Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century," Bush said. "The United States has supported those efforts. Now Russia is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions. To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis."