McCain and Obama on Russia

US observers react to comments made by McCain and Obama on Georgia during the presidential debate.

For Edward Goldberg in the Washington Times, the drastic over-simplification of the conflict in South Ossetia is irresponsible:

McCain’s ‘sloganeering’ on Georgia irresponsible

U.S. citizens basically have only two choices in elections – simplicity rules. But the issues facing America are nuanced and complicated. And nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy.

The situation in Georgia and the Caucasus is a prime example. How easy it was for Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, to reduce a complex problem to simple sloganeering when he stated, “We are all Georgians.” The immediate implication was that Georgia is the current equivalent of Cold War Berlin.

But this is not only a misreading of history and a misunderstanding of where Russia is today in its historic cultural conflict between westernization and despotism. It is also an example of irresponsible sloganeering from someone who wants to lead the United States.

Patrick Shirak on www.opendemocracy.net not only described the two candidates’ presentation of the conflict to the US voting public as ‘over-simplified’ but also as ‘dead wrong’:

McCain & Obama Are Both Wrong on Georgia

The next American president, together with the efforts from European allies, must address failed strategies of the past in order to prevent the West (and Georgia for that matter) from stumbling into an expanded war in the Caucasus.

After watching the first presidential debate between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, one of the only lasting thoughts on my mind was how over-simplified they present the ongoing conflicts in Georgia to the American public, and how dead wrong they both are in seeking to address them. […]

The conflict that erupted in South Ossetia in August, very well could have started in Abkhazia earlier in the year.  These regions have been involved in two very unique secession struggles with the central government in Tbilisi since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The fact that these regions continue to provide sparks of violence in the volatile Caucasus is testament to the failure of international and Georgian policies towards them.

The attempts to reunite Georgia according to its Soviet borders have over the last fifteen years have focused on 1) isolating South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the outside world, 2) refusing to recognize the legitimate concerns of the local populations, 3) incorrectly addressing the conflict as solely and primarily between Russia and Georgia, and by 4) stubbornly following dogmatic policies long after they have already shown themselves to be failures.

The next American president, together with the efforts from European allies, must address these failed strategies of the past in order to prevent the West (and Georgia for that matter) from stumbling into an expanded war in the Caucasus.

With thanks to Johnson’s Russia List for the texts.

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