National Security Network

Crisis in Georgia Reveals Bush Administration Failed Foreign Policy

Print this page
Report 27 August 2008

Russia Russia Abkhazia bush Georgia NATO South Ossetia


Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states is an escalatory step that attempts to lock in its recent military gains through political action. Russia continues to hold the military and political initiative, and U.S. and its NATO allies have been able to do little to counter it. This paralysis once again demonstrates the failure of President Bush’s foreign policy, which relied far too heavily on his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, neglected our transatlantic alliance and undermined our global power and credibility around the world.

In a provocative and significant move, Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia further exacerbating the current crisis. This action further consolidated Russia’s military and political gains of the past three weeks and threatened Georgia’s territorial integrity. It came after the United States and its NATO allies urged Russia not to take this step and was met with broad condemnation and assessment that Russia’s position violated the ceasefire signed last week. President Bush said, “Russia’s action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations.” [NY Times, 8/27/08]

The deteriorating situation in Russia is just one example of the failure of Bush’s overpersonalized diplomacy. “More than many of his predecessors, President Bush has invested heavily in trying to forge a strong bond with key foreign leaders. But as his term winds down, new crises in Georgia and Pakistan are underscoring the limits of Bush's personal diplomacy, as the president is receiving criticism for overpersonalizing relations with Putin, the Russian prime minister, and with Pervez Musharraf, who resigned as Pakistan's president last week…Leslie H. Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said Bush is more naive about personal relations with other leaders than past U.S. presidents, alluding to his meeting with Putin in 2001, after which Bush famously said he looked the Russian leader in the eye and got a ‘sense of his soul…The others were far more realistic,’ Gelb said. ‘This Bush thinks when he calls Putin, they are soul mates, and when he expresses a desire for Putin to do something, he will do it. [Putin] had other reasons for going into Georgia than the personal relations with the president of the United States.’” [Washington Post, 8/27/08]

The U.S. and its NATO allies have been left with very few options
. “The U.S. and Europe, while regularly denouncing Russia's advance into Georgia, an ally of the West, have taken few strong measures to counter it to avoid alienating Moscow while it could still withdraw its forces to positions it held before sending them into Georgia on Aug. 8. But Russian troops now are dug in, and by these decrees, Moscow has signaled that it wants to extend its military advance with political gains.” [LA Times, 8/27/08]

Quick Hits

Two months after a dramatic prison break in which 350 Taliban loyalists escaped, Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar has descended into chaos. Since the break, the city has become a magnet for a resurgent Taliban in Southern Afghanistan.

Field reporting from a U.N. human rights team appears to verify that a recent U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan claimed the lives of 90 civilians, of whom 60 were children. Despite their deep unpopularity with Afghanistan’s people, the U.S. and NATO have depended on airstrikes to battle a growing insurgency, but this most recent tragedy may have been the final straw for the Afghan Government.

North Korea announced on Tuesday that it will suspend the dismantlement of its nuclear program and will consider restoring its capabilities at the nuclear facility at Yongbyon. The decision stemmed North Korean complaints about U.S. delays in removing it from the “terror-sponsoring” states list.

A suicide bombing, alleged to have been orchestrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq, killed 28 Iraqis gathered at a police station in Diyala.

Fighting has intensified in the Philippines, where government troops have embarked on an offensive directed against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Philippine army estimates that over 150 rebels have been killed, but hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the fighting.

According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, opium production in Afghanistan has dropped 19% from the astronomic levels of 2007. However, falling opium prices and a massive crop surplus suggest that “vast amounts of opium, heroin and morphine have been withheld from the market.”

The chief American diplomat in the Taliban hot-bed of Peshawar, Pakistan came under attack from gunmen yesterday.