Senator Barack Obama, who has never been to Georgia, initially seemed reticent to single out Russia for criticism, issuing a general call on Friday for ending “the outbreak of violence.” The next day, as the scope of Russia’s military action became clearer, the Democrat toughened his rhetoric and denounced Russia’s “aggressive action” while calling for more diplomacy.
There’s a reason for the hesitancy. Senator Obama’s top adviser on Russia, Michael McFaul, wasn’t sure Russia was at fault at the outset of hostilities:
Obama foreign-policy adviser Michael McFaul, an expert on the region at Stanford University, said that at first it wasn’t clear that Russia was entirely at fault. “I just don’t think at that point it was useful to start assigning blame. The first thing you need to do is stop the violence,” he said.
But the McCain campaign is pointing to the Arizona senator’s initial statement as evidence that he got it right from the start. “[Obama’s] first statement was very weak and did not distinguish between the aggressor and the victim,” said Randy Scheunemann, Sen. McCain’s top foreign-policy adviser.
The conflict, said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, “is an opportunity for American voters to get a sense of the way both candidates will perform in a very serious international situation.”