Bush Slams 'Irresponsible' Move

APCindy McCain, right, visiting a refugee center Tuesday in the Georgian capital.
In an escalating war of words, President George W. Bush urged Russia to reconsider its "irresponsible decision" to recognize the independence of the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Meanwhile, U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama also condemned the decision, saying Russia should face further isolation from the international community.

Already rebuffed by President Dmitry Medvedev, Bush warned Russia to change course and respect the borders of its Georgian neighbor.

"Russia's action only exacerbates tensions and complicates diplomatic negotiations," Bush said in a statement Tuesday from Crawford, Texas, where he is otherwise spending a quiet vacation.

Despite mounting international condemnation, Russia has shown no sign of backing down. The U.S. is reviewing its relationship with Russia but has imposed no sanctions.

Medvedev said Tuesday that his country would grant diplomatic recognition to the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He said Georgia forced Russia's hand by trying to gain control by force in the smaller of the two areas, South Ossetia, on Aug. 7.

Bush shot back that Russia's move violates both United Nations resolutions and the six-point cease-fire deal that Russia, under Medvedev's watch, signed with Georgia to end a war. "We expect Russia to live up to its international commitments, reconsider this irresponsible decision, and follow the approach set out [in the cease-fire deal]," Bush said.

The White House said the United States would use its veto power on the UN Security Council to ensure that the two separatist provinces remain part of Georgia in the eyes of the world.

The White House sought to emphasize that Russia's conflict was with the world, not just with the United States. Several foreign leaders criticized Russia's action on the two provinces.

"Russia is making, I would say, a number of irrational decisions," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

"We hope that they hear the loud voices from the international community and understand that it's not in their long-term interests to take these kinds of actions," he said.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney leaves next week on a trip that includes a stop in Georgia; Fratto said no U.S. officials plan to go to Russia to appeal directly to leaders there.

Obama, who will become the Democratic U.S. presidential nominee this week, said the United States should convene a Security Council meeting to condemn Moscow's decision in coordination with European allies. He did not say how the council would do that, given Russia's status as a permanent member.

Separately, McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, called Russia's move "a significant and negative step."

"Moscow's action deserves condemnation from the entire international community, and Russia must understand that its violations of international law carry consequences," McCain said.

McCain said he warned in April that Russia was pursuing a policy of de facto annexation that threatened to undermine security and stability in the region.

McCain's wife, Cindy McCain, was in Georgia visiting refugee centers filled with ethnic Georgians who fled villages and neighborhoods in South Ossetia.

"The only place these people want to be is home, and they can't go home because of what has happened to them and because of the situation that the Russians have caused," she said in brief remarks Tuesday outside one of the centers in Tbilisi.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the United States is looking at a variety of options to respond. "We're not trying to escalate anything," Wood said when asked whether disagreement between the West and Russia would jeopardize international cooperation. But, he added, "We obviously can't allow what Russia's done to go without there being some consequences."

(AP, Reuters)