US Congressman defends Russia in Georgia conflict

A conservative Republican congressman is siding with Russia in its invasion of and brief war with Georgia, putting himself at odds with the Bush administration and lawmakers of both parties.
"The Russians were right; we're wrong," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said this week at a hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
"The Georgians started it; the Russians ended it," he said.
Rohrabacher claimed that unidentified intelligence sources had assured him that Georgia started the fighting that began Aug. 7 when Georgia's military tried to re-establish control over its breakaway, pro-Russian province of South Ossetia.
Russia joined the battle, brutally repelled the Georgian offensive and then pushed deep into Georgia proper, where many of its forces remain nearly a month after the battle ended.
Russia has been condemned by the Bush administration and other countries. Vice President Dick Cheney visited Georgia and Ukraine, another former Soviet republic, early this month and called Russia's actions "an affront to civilized standards" and "completely unacceptable." Both U.S. presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, also have issued tough denunciations of Russia.
Not Rohrabacher. "The Georgians broke the truce, not the Russians, and no amount of talk of provocation and all this other stuff can alter that fact," he said.
Rohrabacher is known for taking contrarian stands on foreign affairs and other issues and has clashed with the Bush administration in the past. His comments got little attention in the United States but have been played prominently on state-run Russian television newscasts and other media.
Rohrabacher's Democratic opponent in November's elections, Debbie Cook, condemned his comments.
"Congressman Rohrabacher's statements about the situation in Georgia are unnecessary and continue his pattern of reckless comments," her campaign manager, Kevin Thurman, said Friday.
Rohrabacher, who is in his 10th two-year term, is not the only voice in Congress questioning administration policy on the conflict.
At the same Foreign Affairs hearing in which Rohrabacher spoke, Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman said although plenty of reasons can be cited to be skeptical of Moscow, "Our policy can best be regarded as unthinkingly and reflexively anti-Russian, particularly at a time when we need Russia's support on a number of issues including the containment of Iran."

Updated : 2021-04-14 14:05 GMT+08:00