WASHINGTON (AP) – President Bush on Friday accused Russia of “bullying and intimidation” against Georgia, saying that the people in the former Soviet republic chose freedom and “we will not cast them aside.”
Bush, preparing to travel to his Texas ranch, said in a statement on the White House grounds that he’ll keep in close touch with both Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice amid the continuing showdown between Moscow and Tibilisi over two separatist provinces in Georgia.
“Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century,” Bush said. He reiterated Gates’ assertion of Thursday that Moscow’s behavior in Georgia has damaged its relationship with Washington and its Western allies.
“Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected,” the president said.
On her way to Tbilisi, Rice said the immediate goal is to get Russian combat forces out of Georgia and more difficult questions about the status of the country’s separatist regions and Russia’s presence there can be addressed later.