Will the war in Georgia help boost "commander-in-chief" McCain?
Haditha, Iraq, 16 March 2008. U.S. Marine Corps by Cpl. Erin A. Kirk. The sudden outbreak of war between Russia and Georgia last Friday was a glaring opportunity for the American presidential candidates to prove their worth in foreign policy. Despite it being one of McCain's strong points, both a Democrat and a Republican tell us that it was Obama who came out on top this time. Read why...
Issued on: Modified:
Haditha, Iraq, 16 March 2008. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Erin A. Kirk.
The sudden outbreak of war between Russia and Georgia last Friday was a glaring opportunity for the American presidential candidates to prove their worth in foreign policy. Despite it being one of McCain's strong points, both a Democrat and a Republican tell us that it was Obama who came out on top this time.
The Republican Party has always shown strong support for the small former Soviet state of Georgia, which might explain why, when the Russians responded to Georgian-initiated military action in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, President Mikheil Saakashvili called on the US for help. Unfortunately, the US was busy saving the rest of the world, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy was available and stepped in to broker a peace deal yesterday.
McCain and Obama couldn't miss out on the chance to show their electorate what they would do if their long-term enemy, Russia, started invading Europe. On Monday, McCain spoke about "severe long term consequences" for the country. Later in the day Obama followed suit, with a slightly less threatening speech.
"Nobody will really dare to go against Russia"
Nana Sajaia is a Georgian national living in the US. She was hoping to return to Georgia in two weeks but will now wait until the situation is more stable.
We often see international communities speaking about this [Georgia's breakaway territories] but nobody would really dare to go against Russia. Neither candidate would make a difference in the face of this rich military country. Most people in Georgia support McCain because of his anti-Russia stance - you do hear McCain promising things, but I don't know how his statements could actually come into reality.
Generally I prefer Obama because of his anti-war stance and sticking up for small countries. However, on this subject I don't think he can make a change. For Georgia, only the UN and international organisations can help."
"This year, politics of fear are not working the way they used to"
Crystal Fleming is an Obama supporter and social researcher at Harvard University. She currently lives in Paris, France.
There was a perception amongst some that Obama risked McCain dominating this issue because he spoke about it first. In the past, I think the Republican Party might have benefited from this in the typical sense, but I really do think that this year, politics of fear are not working how they used to. The American people are more savvy, and aware that the tactic was used in the 2004 elections.
The average American doesn't even know where Georgia is - they think it's a US state. People are more concerned about the economy and wars that we're currently engaged in - Iraq and Afghanistan."
"It was probably us that encouraged Georgia’s president to be so over-confident"
Stuart Haugen is the vice-chair of Republicans Abroad France.
This is an unfortunate thing for John McCain because it shows that we are not really equipped or willing to go to war with Russia. And it was probably us [the Republican Party] that encouraged Georgia's president to be so over-confident because we gave him too many false promises. This will enforce Obama's ideology that we shouldn't have so much do with these countries.
If people think about it from a shallow viewpoint - which is what might realistically happen - then it will help McCain - "the world is a dangerous place and we need someone strong". But if they think through the implications, then Obama will seem like a much safer option. And they might wonder why Bush and Rice gave more encouragement than they should have had to Georgia anyway.
However, despite all of this, my suspicion is that people in the US are not even thinking about it - they're just watching the Olympics."
Obama responds later the same day
Video © CNN
Obama responded later on Monday, from his holiday in Hawaii.
McCain's response to the conflict
Video © CNN
Speaking from Erie, Pennsylvania, McCain gave this speech on Monday.