Russia’s invasion of Georgia today raises some questions about how a McCain administration might deal with a crisis like this.
McCain’s main foreign policy adviser and spokesperson, Randy Scheunemann, is a former registered lobbyist for the Republic of Georgia. Back in April, in an interview with Radio Free Europe, Scheunemann took a strongly pro-Georgia anti-Russia line, insisting that the United States should move forward with missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as supporting the NATO membership of Ukraine and Georgia, regardless of the negative consequences that these policies would likely have for U.S.-Russia relations.
Given McCain’s provocative statements regarding Russia, it’s clear that he shares Scheunemann’s hardline views on the subject. As we wrote last month, this has troubling implications for the prospect of Russia’s essential cooperation in dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. But is also raises the question of how a McCain administration — staffed by committed Georgian partisans like Randy Scheunemann — could conceivably be seen as an honest broker for dealing with the growing crisis between Russia and Georgia?
UPDATE: The McCain campaign issued a statement calling on Russia to “immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory,” and calling for the international community “to establish a truly independent and neutral peacekeeping force in South Ossetia.”
As Jonathan Martin notes, McCain has taken a much harder pro-Georgia line on the situation than the Bush administration. It remains to be seen how a McCain administration could productively mediate such a conflict, especially given Randy Scheunemann’s past statements dismissing diplomatic “trade offs” with Russia as “kind of a relic of a bygone era of power politics.”
UPDATE 2: Rob Farley has this analysis, also noting here Georgia’s bombardment last night of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, which prompted today’s Russian action in support of Georgian separatists.