U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has acknowledged that Georgia attacked South Ossetia, speaking on Russian-American relations at the German Marshall Fund in Washington. The speech was much awaited, even though its content was known in advance.
Rice harshly criticized Russian domestic and foreign policy, saying that the country was becoming “increasingly authoritarian at home and aggressive abroad.” She characterized Russia as “on a one-way path to self-imposed isolation and international irrelevance.” But she did acknowledge Georgia’s role in the recent Caucasus conflict. “The Georgian government launched a major military operation into Tskhinvali and other areas of that separatist region,” she said. “Regrettably, several Russian peacekeepers were killed in the fighting.”
She went onto to describe Russia’s response as “disproportionate,” as is already a tradition in the West. “Russia’s leaders violated Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and launched a full scale invasion across an internationally-recognized border,” she recounted and noted that those actions “fit into a worsening pattern of behavior over several years.” Other signs of that deterioration include “its use of oil and gas as a political weapon…, its threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons … and its persecution – and worse – of Russian journalists, and dissidents, and others.”
This speech is marked by a softening of her rhetoric in regard to Russia.