US and Russian Interests in Georgia Shouldn’t Contradict one Another: Former Senior Adviser at Bush Administration

Politics Materials 11 July 2008 12:27 (UTC +04:00)

Paul Saunders, a leading American expert, Executive Director of Washington-based Nixon Center, especially for Trend .

In 2003-2005 Saunders was the senior adviser at the Bush Administration for US-Russian relations.

I don't think Russia can "solve" the Georgian crisis as you put it because solving the problem requires cooperation between Russia, Georgia, and the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  This is very unlikely to happen if all of the parties-- Russia, Georgia, and the two regions--do not refrain from provocative behavior.  Secretary Rice called on both Russia and Georgia to avoid provocative behavior in Tbilisi, though she partially undermined that balanced message by saying "we always fight for our friends'' after a meeting with President Mikhael Saakashvili, a statement that both Tbilisi and Moscow are sure to notice.I personally do not believe that U.S. and Russian interests in Georgia need to contradict one another because I do not believe that the United States has any truly fundamental interests at stake in Georgia, though we certainly have some interests and also some preferences there.  More narrowly, the main American interest in the disputes over Abkhazia and South Ossetia is seeing them resolved peacefully and in a sustainable way, which means that the resolution will have to be acceptable to all parties, something that should be consistent with both Russian and Georgian goals.  I believe the U.S. also has an interest in not allowing Russian-Georgian disagreements to become an obstacle to working with Moscow or Tbilisi on issues where the U.S. has more at stake, like Iran's nuclear weapons, counter-terrorism, and energy security.

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