A rebel US Republican congressman has sided with Russia in its invasion of and brief war with Georgia, putting himself at odds with the Bush administration and politicians of both parties.
By Dana Rohrabacher
Dana Rohrabacher’s comments were played prominently on state-run Russian television bulletins
“The Russians were right; we’re wrong,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said at a hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The Georgians started it; the Russians ended it,” he added.
Mr Rohrabacher claimed that unidentified intelligence sources had assured him that Georgia started the fighting that began on August 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 US presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, also have issued tough denunciations of Russia.
But Mr Rohrbacher insisted that Georgia was to blame: “The Georgians broke the truce, not the Russians, and no amount of talk of provocation and all this other stuff can alter that fact.”
A know rebel, he has taken controversial stands and 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 bulletins and other media.
Mr 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.