US is on Georgia's side, may kick Russia out of G-8

WASHINGTON, DC (WIS) - Officials in the Republic of Georgia say Russian troops are pulling out of the city of Gori, further sign the conflict seems to be abating.

Thursday Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will arrive in Georgia to demonstrate a strong U.S. stand against Russia's offensive.

First Secretary Rice will stop in Paris, a nod to European allies en route to the strongest showing yet of White House solidarity with Georgia.

In Gori, the extent of the damage is clear, proof in the heart of Georgia of how far Russian forces came.

The conflict drew a sharp rebuke from President Bush whose top diplomat Thursday, Condoleezza Rice, sides with Tiblisi in person.

President Bush said "on this trip, she will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia."

Before her trip, Rice dismissed Moscow's claim the ceasefire allowed it to clear out abandoned weapons.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said "this is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it. Things have changed."

The first U.S. aid arrived. Shelter and supplies on a U.S. military plane and Moscow and Washington swapped ultimatums.

The Kremlin demanded the U.S. renounce Georgia's president, which is not likely. The Columbia-educated lawyer sent the most troops to Iraq after the U.S. and Britain.

President Bush hinted Russia's move may lead to exclusion in world affairs, and said, "now Russia is putting its aspirations at risk."

Rice spoke to G-7 foreign ministers this week.

Steven Pifer, a former Bush and Clinton Foreign Policy Advisor and currently with the Brookings Institution, said "all of her colleagues except for the Russian Foreign Minister, that was a subtle message that we can now go from a G-8 to a G-7."

Political damage from the clash in the caucusus still far from clear.

Officials deny claims the White House emboldened Georgia to provoke Russia, and though the administration stressed the U.S. military's role in providing aid, a senior defense official said it's not a sign the U.S. is injecting forces into the conflict.

Posted by Logan Smith