FORMER U.S. SENATOR HART URGES PARTY TO SOFTEN STANCE ON RUSSIA
By Peter Duveen
PETER'S NEW YORK, August 29, 2008--Although Democrats have generally
taken a hard line toward Russia regarding its conflict with neighboring
Georgia, former U.S. Senator Gary Hart said yesterday he believed his
party should consider a more toned down response to the dispute between
the two nations.
Earlier this month, Georgian troops attacked South Ossetia, where both
Russian and Georgian peace keepers were stationed under an
international agreement. Russia responded by invading Georgia and
neutralizing its military. Both Democrats and Republicans have fallen
over each other to condemn Russia's actions. But Hart, in statements
made at a panel discussion sponsored by the National Democratic
Institute and the Center for U.S. Global Engagement, said a "more
nuanced" approach to the situation was more appropriate. Hart said he
has been a participant in a recently formed commission to improve
American-Russian relations. He said the commission would come out with
a statement in the near future.
Hart cited the history of the region over the past 300 years, and
particularly in the last 100 years, as considerations in attempting to
grasp the actions of Russia and other state players in recent events.
"We understand it is not a simple black-white situation," Hart said,
calling the issues involved "complex."
Panelists were discussing what the foreign policy of a Barack Obama
administration might look like. Obama is the Democratic nominee for the
upcoming presidential elections.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI), a quasi-government nonprofit
entity, purports to assist citizens of countries in establishing
democratic initiatives. It has been accused by critics, particularly
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), of interfering in the electoral politics of the
countries it claims to be helping. In 2004, Paul called for a
congressional investigation into the activities of the NDI and other
organizations that, according to Paul, have illegally interfered in the
internal affairs of other countries. Paul specifically cited the
so-called "Orange Revolution" of the Ukraine as an event in which the
NDI intervened to support a particular side in an election, rather than
carrying out an even-handed support of democratic principles and
institutions in the country.
The Center for U.S. Global Engagement positions itself as an
organization that unites business and humanitarian agencies to promote
During the discussion, some of the panelists chimed in on the
Russia-Georgia conflict in response to questioning by Hart, who served
as the panel's moderator. Anthony Lake, Obama's primary adviser on
foreign policy, called Russia's recent actions "a very dangerous
precedent," and said they may prompt other nations to make similar
moves. "This is going to be a very tough issue," he said. "There should
be a price paid for an action like this."
"Aggression will not be tolerated," said Susan Rice, a former State Department official. "There will be consequences."
It was in response to the panelists' more hardline remarks that Hart
made his comments. Hart characterized his viewpoint as a "tiny note of
The panel discussion, which took place in Denver during the Democratic
National Convention there, aired today on the cable television news
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