John McCain comes off as the tough-talking hard-liner in this Financial Times story about the Russia-Georgia conflict. Even more of a hard-liner than President Bush, who ever-so-reluctantly came around to agreeing with McCain on Monday after initially taking “a much more diluted stance” (just like Barack Obama), as John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, put it in the FT article’s completely unsurprising conclusion. A lame-duck president first sides with the opponent to his party’s chosen nominee … and then comes around to seeing the startlingly spot-on logic in his would-be-successor’s stance? No way.

Financial Times:

“Russia’s aggression against Georgia is both a matter of urgent moral and strategic importance to the United States,” said Mr McCain. “The implications go beyond their threat to a democratic Georgia. Russia is using violence against Georgia, in part, to intimidate other neighbours such as Ukraine, for choosing to associate with the West.”

By Monday Mr Bush’s initial response – which he made at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday, where he expressed “grave concern” about Moscow’s “disproportionate response” to Georgia’s troop movement – had been replaced by a more stark assessment echoing Mr McCain’s broader alarm about Russia’s intentions.

It followed conservative criticism of the administration’s allegedly tepid response to the crisis. Earlier John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations now at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said: “What is interesting about the US response is that you have the McCain campaign in one corner immediately understanding the significance of Russia’s aggression and in the opposite you have the Bush administration standing with the Obama campaign taking a much more diluted stance.”

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