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Daniel Fried On Georgia

Russia's recent invasion of Georgia, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried, "is a troubling and dangerous act."

In response to the Russian invasion of Georgia, France, supported by the U.S. and its European allies helped broker a ceasefire. The agreement was signed by both Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev. Under the ceasefire agreement Russia had promised an immediate withdrawal of its forces from Georgia to their positions before the hostilities began. Russia has failed to live up to this and other requirements of the ceasefire agreement.

Russia further escalated the conflict on August 26th by recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- the two breakaway regions of Georgia. Russia took this step in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions that Russia approved that explicitly affirmed Georgia's territorial integrity. "This outrageous and irresponsible action," said Assistant Secretary of State Fried, "was condemned by the European Union, NATO's Secretary general, key allies, and -- in an unprecedented move -- the foreign ministers of the G-7 countries."

The United States strongly objects to Russia's attempt declare Georgia within its sphere of influence. "The United States," said Mr. Fried," does not believe in or recognize 'spheres of influence.' Since 1989, the United States ... has supported the right of every country emerging from Communism to choose the path of its own development, and to choose the institutions -- such as NATO and the European Union -- that it wants to associate with and join."

Russia has a choice to make. It can seek to be a nation at peace with itself and its neighbors, a modern nation establishing its power and influence in modern and constructive ways. Or if Russia continues its current course of defiance and failure to honor its agreements, its self-isolation will deepen, with profound implications for Russia's relations with key international institutions. "We hope Russia, even now," said Assistant Secretary of State Fried, "can choose a better path."