The Speaker’s Condition for Russia

by John Hood

Commenting earlier this week on the possibility of Russia joining the World Trade Organization, House Speaker John Boehner said during a Heritage Foundation speech: Nothing doing, unless Russia ends its violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Boehner traded barbs with the Obama administration over the issue:

Boehner said there have been “alarming reports” of the Obama administration pressuring Georgia to accept Russian boundaries set after their 2008 war.

The White House disputed Boehner’s criticism, with spokesman Tommy Vietor arguing that the administration “remains unwavering in its commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity. We have made clear, both in private channels and in public statements, that the United States will not support Russia’s WTO accession until Russia and Georgia reach agreement on their outstanding trade-related issues.”

In August 2008, Georgian troops tried unsuccessfully to regain control over the Moscow-backed rebel province of South Ossetia. Russia sent troops that routed the Georgian military in five days. Georgia entirely lost control of both South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia.

In Russia on Tuesday, President Dmitry Medvedev’s economic adviser said Moscow will never meet Georgia’s demands. Georgia alleges that the two regions that split off in the war are occupied territory used as staging points for Russian terrorist incursions.

“We have not completed the talks with Georgia,” said Arkady Dvorkovich, according to the Interfax news agency. “The demands put forward by our neighbors do not concern the demands of the WTO but concern something completely different, something we cannot and never will be able to meet.”

Look again at the White House statement from Vietor. Was Russia’s incursion into Georgian territory a “trade-related issue”?