Although she acknowledged that Georgia fired the first shots in August’s bloody conflict with Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday laid most of the blame for that showdown on Russia. During a strident speech, she also gave several other examples of how she believed Russia’s leaders were taking their nation down a dangerous road.
“The Georgian government launched a major military operation into Tskhinvali [the capital of South Ossetia] and other areas of that separatist region,” she said.
“Regrettably, several Russian peacekeepers were killed in the fighting,” she added.
But Ms Rice said that Russia had escalated the conflict.
“Russia’s leaders violated Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and launched a full-scale invasion across an internationally recognised border,” she said, adding that Russia had also violated the terms of a ceasefire negotiated by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Ms Rice said it had been “deeply disconcerting” that Russia had tried to “dismember” Georgia by recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and argued that Russia’s actions were part of what she described as a “worsening pattern of behaviour”.
“I refer…to Russia’s intimidation of its sovereign neighbours, its use of oil and gas as a political weapon…its threat to target peaceful neighbours with nuclear weapons…and its persecution - or worse - of Russian journalists and dissidents,” she added.