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Bush admin. divided on South Ossetia Wednesday, 20 August, 2008

Posted by Farbod in Interviews.
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Press TV – Bush admin. divided on South Ossetia.

Tue, 19 Aug 2008 15:37:55 GMT
By Hassan Tavakoli, Press TV, Tehran

The following is Press TV’s exclusive full-length interview with investigative Journalist, Gareth Porter from Washington on the South Ossetian conflict.

Press TV: Russia’s President says Georgia could not go ‘unpunished’ for attacking South Ossetia, and that further aggression would have a crushing response. Seems he is very serious?

Porter: Well, clearly Russia is about showing its complete dominance in this area and its military activities are aimed at showing that, demonstrating that very clearly.

There has never been any intention clearly to occupy Georgia permanently or to bring it under Russian control but, certainly, they are demonstrating that this area is certainly part of the Russian sphere of security…the security sphere of Russia…and therefore they are taking their time about withdrawing and making a political point.

One of course, that is cutting both ways, it’s… locally it’s having the effect of underlining Russian power but internationally it is helping the opponents of the Russians, garner greater support for punishing Russia in many ways.

Press TV: There is this question that many have been asking, why did this conflict ever start?

Porter: This is a conflict, of course, that reflects the interests of both the hardliners in Washington and the hardline being taken by President Saakashvili of Georgia and there is an alignment here which, I think, has to be understood as part of the background of what happened this month.

The situation has to be understood as a reflection of a deeply divided government in Washington. As I have said on other issues, particularly Iran, the Bush administration has two lines toward Russia.

One line represented by Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates which is a moderate line of trying to avoid destabilization in the region of the Caucuses.

The other line, however, which is not heard of publicly, but is certainly important, is that of Vice-President Dick Cheney. And I think, it is reasonable to assume that Cheney did have a great deal of influence on George Bush in terms of the decision to go to NATO and insist on membership for Georgia and Ukraine which was a position that most NATO members did not support and particularly, of course, Germany and France did not support because of its destabilizing implications and because they would certainly not be willing to support the idea of a defense commitment to either Georgia or Ukraine.

Press TV: There is the question of the US and Israeli involvement in the conflict. Are we seeing a bigger political battlefield here?

Porter: Well, there is no doubt there is a bigger political battlefield from the point of view of the strategy of the strongly anti-Russian group of nations and particularly Israel and the United States and I must say that this situation of taking advantage of the Russian invasion of Georgia is very reminiscent of 1979 when the hardliners and the democratic administration of Jimmy Carter particularly Zbigniew Brzezinski prevailed in carrying out a secret covert operation in supporting the Mojahedeen in Afghanistan and they did so knowing that it would increase the chances of a Russian invasion of Afghanistan later on.

But you see the hardliners win either way and I think that’s what the calculation was on the part of the hardliners in the Bush administration as well because now they can use this to isolate Russia.

Press TV: NATO is holding an emergency meeting on the issue and of course we know that Georgia is seeking membership and that Russia is opposed. How balanced can we expect the result to be?

Porter: I don’t think that most NATO members will support the hardline that the Bush administration wants to take but there will ultimately be a compromise between that hardline and the more moderate line being supported by Germany and France, and so there would be some measures to punish Russia but not nearly as much as the United States would like.

Press TV: What options would there be if Georgia, or either side, doesn’t live up to its commitments?

Porter: Well, I’m not sure if you mean Georgia’s commitments to…the ceasefire accord…Well I think Georgia certainly has no choice but to abide by the ceasefire accord for the time being.

I don’t think we are going to see any serious violations by the Georgian side and I do think that the situation will gradually then return to normal in the sense that the Russians will retreat behind the pre-war lines.

Press TV: Of course, we have the issue of Kosovo’s independence. How serious and dangerous a precedent would have that set for South Ossetia that Georgia attacked it if that was the reason?

Porter: Well, there is no doubt that the Kosovo decision, that is the Western support for Kosovo’s independence, was used by Russia to justify a much harder line in South Ossetia to assert that.

That means that South Ossetia should get the same treatment as Kosovo has and certainly, in their minds, it justified the status that they believed South Ossetia should have and, of course, one that Georgia was unwilling to allow and which the United States was not going to support either.

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