'No Room for Debate': Bush Orders Russia Out of Georgia

To defiant Russia, says "no room for debate" disputed areas are part of Georgia.

ByABC News
February 19, 2009, 4:40 AM

CRAWFORD, Texas, Aug. 16, 2008 — -- The gunfire may be quieting, but the diplomatic battle over Georgia isn't over: From his ranch in Crawford, Texas, President Bush rejected outright any claim by Russia to the two disputed regions in Georgia, saying the country's borders must remain intact.

"A major issue is Russia's contention that the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia may not be a part of Georgia's future. But these regions are a part of Georgia," Bush said. "There's no room for debate on this matter."

But that debate may just be starting.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Georgia could, "forget about any talk about … territorial integrity."

However, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived at Bush's ranch at 5:30 a.m. Saturday to brief the president on negotiations in Tbilisi, Georgia, she told reporters Russia faces a choice "to act in a 21st-century way, [to] fully integrate into the international institutions.

"I think it's very much worthwhile to have given Russia that chance," Rice said. "Now I think the behavior recently suggests that perhaps Russia has not taken that route ... or that they would like to have it both ways -- that is, that you behave in a 1968 way toward your neighbors by invading them and, at the same time, you continue to integrate into the political and diplomatic and economic and security structures of the international community. And I think the fact is you can't have it both ways."

In 1968, the world did little as the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia. By contrast, the response to the Russians in Georgia has been swift condemnation. In some ways, Moscow's mindset may be stuck in the Cold War, analysts said.

"They have a kind of imperial hangover," said Fred Starr, a professor at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. "They haven't adjusted to post-Soviet reality."

In that reality, the United States, particularly President Bush, has treated Russia as more partner than competitor. But the next president may see that dynamic undone, suggested Charles Kupchan, a professor at the School of Foreign Service and Government Department at Georgetown University.