Bush Cuts Vacation Short to Focus on Russia/Georgia Conflict

Aug 13, 2008 6:00pm

ABC News’ Jennifer Duck and Kirit Radia Report: President Bush used his most stern words yet today calling on Russia to stop violating the provisional cease-fire agreement with Georgia while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked tough telling Russia to stand down.

The White House told reporters President Bush’s two week trip to Crawford, Texas has been "postponed" for a day or two so the president could meet with his National Security team face-to-face. President Bush also announced Sec. Rice will travel to France tonight to meet with EU and French President Nicolas Sarkozy before heading to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

"We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia," President Bush said in the Rose Garden today. "And we expect all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country."

"To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe and other nations and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis," he added.

Hours after the president’s announcement, Sec. Rice said things have changed since the Cold War. "This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it. Things have changed."

Although reports from the region have varied, President Bush cited reports of Russia violating the provisional cease-fire agreement by blocking the East-West Highway, bombing Georgian vessels, blocking the Port of Poti.

"There are concerning reports from around Georgia that Russia has not, in fact, in accordance with the pledge that it took to the French presidency, to President Sarkozy, that Russia has not ended its military operations. Those operations must stop and must stop now," Rice said.

She said Russia’s actions may have consequences and could possibly lead to Russia’s expulsion or exclusion from international organizations they now belong to. "It is important to think again about whether, in fact, Russia will be committed to the kind of behavior that would make its involvement in those institutions appropriate."

At the direction of the president, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will lead the dispatch of aid to Georgia. The first of the C-17 cargo planes arrived in Tbilisi this afternoon and will be providing humanitarian aid and medical supplies. And another C-17 will arrive in Tbilisi tomorrow with additional supplies.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino flatly said this is a humanitarian issue with U.S. troops but when pressed about the future of the U.S. military role in the region she wouldn’t rule "anything in or out."

President Bush usually spends two weeks in August vacationing at his ranch while Congress is in recess. However with violence escalating in Georgia and tensions rising with Russia, President Bush will likely leave Friday, a day later than originally planned, to be at the White House with his National Security Team.

Although Air Force One and the president’s Texas home are both fully equipped to handle video teleconferencing and other high-tech communication needs, Perino told reporters President Bush wanted to stay for the benefits of "face-to-face communication."

"The capabilities of the president to communicate with his team exists wherever he goes, but there is a benefit to face-to-face communication. And so the president just wanted one more day to be with his team," Perino said.

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