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Rice:  Current Russian Policies Leading to Isolation, Irrelevance


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a stern policy speech, said current Russian policies including its invasion of Georgia, have put Moscow on a path to self-imposed isolation and irrelevance. She said Moscow will not achieve its war aim of removing Georgia's pro-Western government. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Rice's address at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund included some of her strongest comments to date about Russian intervention in Georgia and other recent behavior.

But at the same time, she stressed that U.S.-Russian tensions have not lapsed back to Cold War levels, and that the two powers have shared interests in, among other things, bringing peace to the Middle East, and preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Rice acknowledged that both sides in last month's Georgian crisis made mistakes and miscalculations, but she said Russian intervention - sparked by a Georgian military move into disputed South Ossetia - was a full-scale and apparently long-planned invasion.

What is more disturbing, she said, is that it fits into a pattern of behavior of a Russia increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad.

"I am referring, among other things, to Russia's intimidation of its sovereign neighbors, its use of oil and gas as a political weapon, its unilateral suspension of the CFE treaty, its threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons, its arms sales to groups that threaten international security, and its persecution - and worse - of Russian journalists and dissidents, and others," she said.

Rice declared the Russian invasion has achieved, and will achieve, no enduring strategic objective - including what she said was Moscow's primary war aim of removing the pro-Western Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili.

She said the goal of the United States and its allies must be to make clear to Russian leaders that their choices are putting the country on what she termed a one-way path to self imposed isolation and international irrelevance.

"Russia's international standing is worse now than at any time since 1991. And the cost of this self-inflicted isolation has been steep. Russia's civilian nuclear cooperation with the United States is not going anywhere now," she said. "Russia's leaders are imposing pain on their nation's economy. Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization is now in jeopardy. And so too is its attempt to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development."

In a note of sarcasm, Rice said the political support Russia has gotten on Georgia from Nicaragua's leftist leader Daniel Ortega and the Palestinian radical group Hamas is hardly a diplomatic triumph. And she said anachronistic Russian displays of military power, such as its recent dispatch of Soviet-era Blackjack bombers to Venezuela, will not turn back the tide of history.

But she concluded her message with conciliatory language, stressing the Bush administration's determination to pursue areas of common concern with Russia - among them fighting terrorism, denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and stopping Iran's rulers from obtaining the world's deadliest weapons.

A spokesman said Rice spoke by telephone before the speech with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov - only their second such conversation since the peak of the Georgian crisis.

Rice and Lavrov will meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly next week in multilateral meetings on the Middle East peace process and the Iranian nuclear issue.