White House: Georgia’s security has improved due to the Russian reset

A column of Russian APCs at a Russian military base at the Black Sea town of Gudauta in Georgia

From Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy:  With Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visiting Washington Thursday, the issue of Russia’s occupation of Georgia is now on the agenda. The White House doesn’t have any specific plans to advance its stated goal of getting Russian troops out of what Georgia claims as its own territory, but claims that the reset itself is already making the situation better.

"I guess the question is: Is Georgia and is the rest of Europe more secure today than they were — than Europe was when we first got here? And I think our answer is yes," said Michael McFaul, senior director for Russia at the National Security Council, in a conference call Tuesday. …

"We consider their occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be illegitimate. And this is a position shared widely by the international community," McFaul said.

Basically, the administration’s plan for Georgia is to continue to make its position clear to the Russians, continue to send economic aid to the Georgians, and wait patiently for those two things to produce some result. …

The U.S. administration has made great efforts to de-link Georgia from other aspects of the U.S.-Russia relationship, arguing that that there is no reason not to make progress on issues where the U.S. and Russia share interests, such as arms control, nonproliferation, and economic cooperation.

"Even as we have differences, we can cooperate on areas of mutual concern, and of course the flip side of that is even where we cooperate on areas of mutual concern, we don’t paper over our differences either," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said on the conference call. …

Even Russia experts who favor the "reset" approach, however, are calling on the administration to change its tone on Georgia.

"We have a two-pronged policy: One is banging on the table and getting the equivalent of ‘shove it’ from the Russians," said Samuel Charap, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "On other the other hand we have this traditional method of assistance to Georgia. I don’t think any of this is getting at the real problem or getting us any closer to ending the Russian occupation of Georgia."  (photo: AP)

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