Rice Refusing To Call Russia?

Fallout from the Georgian conflict is still widening, in what may become the defining foreign policy issue of the 2008 US elections.

In yet another example of Bush administration "diplomacy", Condi Rice is seemingly refusing to talk to her Russian counterpart about escalating tensions in Georgia - even over the phone.

Two and a half years ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said U.S. ties with Russia were the best they had been for "quite some time."

Now she and her Russian counterpart are barely on speaking terms over Georgia, and foreign policy analysts are worried that the soured relations will curtail Washington's diplomatic clout around the world.

... U.S. officials said on Friday Rice had not spoken to Lavrov for nearly two weeks -- since a ceasefire was negotiated that Washington accuses Russia of disobeying.

She has not visited Moscow either, but she went to Georgia to show support for beleaguered President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"There's no need to pick up the phone and talk to the Russians right now," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

Meanwhile, Russia is saying it will respond in kind to any Western measures against it, meeting sanctions with sanctions or aggression with aggression.

"Russia does not want confrontation with any country. Russia does not plan to isolate itself," Medvedev said in an interview with Russia's three main television stations.

But he added: "Everyone should understand that if someone launches an aggressive sortie, he will receive a response."

The comment may well have been aimed at bellicose rhetoric from Republican candidate John McCain and from his campaign proxies. By now, in normal times, the crisis in Georgia would be calming down. But it hasn't and Russia has explicity accused the Bush administration of hyping the conflict to aid the Republican election campaign. That has been denied, of course, but Russia has pointed to an American passport (h/t Kat) - belonging to a Texan named Michael Lee White - which was found in a building occupied by Georgian commandos as circumstantial evidence that US advisors were aiding Georgian troops during the fighting. (EDIT: White has denied involvement and said his passport was stolen on a flight from Moscow back in December 2005.)

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