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Op-Ed: State’s Blunders on Georgia and Cyprus Damage U.S. Interests
September 9, 2008—No. 67 (202) 785-8430

Op-Ed: State’s Blunders on Georgia and Cyprus Damage U.S. Interests


WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed appeared in the Greek News, September 15, 2008, National Herald September 21, 2008.

By Gene Rossides

September 9, 2008

The Georgia crisis has moved from the front pages of the daily newspapers to the inside pages and not even on a daily basis.

The Greek American community should not let the U.S. response to Russia’s overreaction to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s provocation in sending Georgian troops into South Ossetia, one of the contested provinces, go unchallenged for at least two reasons.

First, the role and actions of the State Department regarding Georgia and Cyprus by failing to uphold the rule of law in international affairs have damaged U.S. interests and continue to damage U.S. interests.

Second, we need to continually remind the administration, particular the State Department and the Congress: (1) of the failure of the U.S. government to prevent Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974; (2) the actual U.S. encouragement of Turkey to invade Cyprus and overthrow the democratically elected government headed by President Makarios; (3) the toleration  by State of the occupation by Turkey of 37 percent of Cyprus with 43,000 illegal armed forces and the failure to call publicly for their removal as State has called for the removal of Russian troops from Georgia; and (4) the toleration of the illegal transfer of Turks from Anatolia to Cyprus which now number 180,000 and outnumber the Turkish Cypriots by 2 to 1, and the failure to a call publicly for the removal of these illegal settlers/colonists.

States’ blunders on Georgia

It appears that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili believed he had State’s support to press Russia regarding the two contested provinces of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russia had peacekeeping forces since the issue arose in the early 1990’s. State authorized U.S. military aid to Georgia with U.S. arms and equipment including offense type weapons.

And why do we have 100 military advisers to Georgia’s army? Keep in mind that Georgia borders Russia.

And why do we keep pushing for NATO expansion to the borders of Russia when the Cold War is over and we said, in effect, to Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin that we would not do so?

I concur with the general condemnation of Russia’s overreaction to Georgia’s provocation in attacking South Ossetia with multiple rocket launchers and troops.

But where was the condemnation of the Georgian president Saakashvili’s actions and the U.S. role in his actions? There has been some criticism of Saakashvili in the media but not nearly enough.

There has been very little criticism of U.S. actions, particularly State’s actions, compared with the chorus of attacks on Russia, particularly by neo-conservatives and by the State Department, which is trying to divert attention from its role and to cover-up its role.

I believe State and Defense were aware of Saakashvili’s intentions and did nothing to stop him. At our embassy in Georgia we have in addition to State Department officials, CIA personnel as well as Defense Intelligence Agency activities, all of which are proper functions. We also have in Georgia one hundred military advisers. There is no way in my judgment that Saakashvili could have done what he did without their knowledge and, in effect, support.

State, instead of admitting its role which amounts to a major blunder because of its impact on U.S.-Russia relations, has resorted to intemperate attacks on Russia and a cover-up of State’s role and responsibility for the Georgia crisis.

State’s actions are similar to what it has done regarding Cyprus for over three decades, to the clear detriment of U.S. interests in the region.

Paul J. Saunders, executive director of the Nixon Center and associate publisher of conservative magazine, The National Interest, basically concurs in these views regarding the State Department blunders in Georgia. An article he wrote, which was posted August 12, 2008 is titled: “The United States shares the blame for the Russia-Georgia crisis: American blunders fostered the situation, and now the United States will pay a high global price.”

Need for a shake-up at State

There is a need in the interests of U.S. foreign policy for a shake-up in State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Dan Fried, one of the harshest critics of Russia, must bear a major portion of the blame for U.S. blunders regarding Georgia and for the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations. He also bears responsibility for the failure to call for the removal of Turkey’s 43,000 occupation troops and 180,000 illegal settlers/colonists from Cyprus while he calls for Russian troops out of Georgia.

The prime persons responsible for the unfortunate state of U.S.-Russian relations are, of course, President Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice started as Bush’s first National Security Adviser before he nominated her for Secretary of State. Secretary Rice’s expertise at Stanford University was as a Soviet Union expert, which country does not exist today. She bears a major responsibility for the present state of U.S.-Russia relations. Both Bush and Rice will be out of office on January 20, 2009.

Any new career officials in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs should be asked specifically whether they will faithfully uphold U.S. laws and support the rule of law in international affairs.

And any political appointees to the State Department, including the Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of State, should also be specifically asked whether they will uphold U.S. laws and enforce the rule of law in international affairs.

Congress must also utilize its oversight responsibility regarding State’s blunders.

Get Active

Election day is November 4, 2008. I urge readers to get active during the next month and a half by contacting the candidates of your choice for president, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House and telling them your views on issues of concern to you. All politics is local and you can make a difference.

Gene Rossides is President of the American Hellenic Institute and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.


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