Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Russia's Aggression Against Georgia: Consequences and Responses
Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Georgia
U.S. Senator Barack Obama today submitted the following statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing entitled, Russia's Aggression Against Georgia: Consequences and Responses:
"Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on "Responses to the Conflict between Georgia and Russia.
"When Russian military forces invaded Georgia last month, I condemned Russia's aggressive actions, called for Russia to cease its bombing campaign and withdraw its ground forces, and stated that Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected. I spoke with Georgian President Saakashvili on August 9th and conveyed to him my deep regret over the loss of life and the suffering of the people of Georgia.
"For many months, I have warned about the potential for escalation of this simmering dispute. I called upon Russia to stop provoking Georgia and also warned Georgia not to fall for Russia's baiting. Instead of military escalation, I stated in April and again in July that there needs to be active international engagement to peacefully address the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including a high-level and neutral international mediator and a genuine international peacekeeping force in Georgia. No matter how the conflict in August started, it is clear that Russia escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There is no justification for Russia's invasion of Georgia or recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
"Together with our European and other partners, we must take action on several fronts. First, neutral, international observers must immediately be deployed to Georgia to verify that the Russians are upholding their commitments. This means not only strengthening the OSCE observer mission in South Ossetia but also dispatching EU observers to all parts of Georgia including the conflict zones. These observers must not only monitor implementation of the cease-fire agreement but also investigate all claims of human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing.
"Second, the international community must continue to hold Russia accountable for its continued misconduct and violations of international law. So long as Russia continues to violate international law and refuses to respect the territorial integrity of its neighbors, the United States and Europe must work together to consider other measures, including suspension of Russian applications to join the WTO and OECD. Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states should be rejected.
"Third, we must make Georgia's economic recovery an urgent strategic priority. Senator Biden and I have called for $1 billion in reconstruction assistance to help the people of Georgia during this trying period. The administration has embraced this idea, and Congress should provide the funding immediately to demonstrate that Russia will not get away with its attempt to humiliate Georgia by destroying its infrastructure, military equipment and villages. I also welcome and encourage European efforts to help rebuild Georgia.
"Fourth, a clear lesson of the Georgia crisis is that we and our European allies must pursue energy policies that reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas. This means working urgently to increase efficient use of energy, especially in those countries in the transatlantic community still recovering from wasteful Soviet practices. It also means developing alternative energy sources and alternative supplies for Europe and Eurasia. Just as the United States and Europe committed in the 1990s to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which can deliver one million barrels of oil per day from Central Asia across a route that does not depend on Russia, today we must jointly build other alternative production and pipeline projects.
"Finally, events in Georgia make it more necessary than ever for the United States and Europe to reiterate their shared commitments to the sovereign right of all European countries to live in freedom from the threat of military or economic coercion. Beyond the attack on Georgia, the past few months and years have seen Russian cyber attacks in Estonia, use of energy blackmail against Ukraine, and threats to point missiles at Poland and other East European states. We must stand together against these acts.
"Russia today is not the Soviet Union, and we are not returning to the Cold War. I will continue to press for direct dialogue with the Kremlin on issues of mutual interest, including keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists, reducing our nuclear arsenals, and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Russia has the potential to become a responsible stakeholder in the international system, and I hope that one day it can be included in the wider Euro-Atlantic community. Russia's recent choices, however, are threatening this potential and reminding us all that peace and security in Europe cannot be taken for granted."