PETER'S NEW YORK, August 29, 2008--Although Democrats have generally taken a hard line toward Russia regarding its conflict with neighboring Georgia, former U.S. Senator Gary Hart said yesterday he believed his party should consider a more toned down response to the dispute between the two nations.
Earlier this month, Georgian troops attacked South Ossetia, where both Russian and Georgian peace keepers were stationed under an international agreement. Russia responded by invading Georgia and neutralizing its military. Both Democrats and Republicans have fallen over each other to condemn Russia's actions. But Hart, in statements made at a panel discussion sponsored by the National Democratic Institute and the Center for U.S. Global Engagement, said a "more nuanced" approach to the situation was more appropriate. Hart said he has been a participant in a recently formed commission to improve American-Russian relations. He said the commission would come out with a statement in the near future.
Hart cited the history of the region over the past 300 years, and particularly in the last 100 years, as considerations in attempting to grasp the actions of Russia and other state players in recent events. "We understand it is not a simple black-white situation," Hart said, calling the issues involved "complex."
Panelists were discussing what the foreign policy of a Barack Obama administration might look like. Obama is the Democratic nominee for the upcoming presidential elections.
The Center for U.S. Global Engagement positions itself as an organization that unites business and humanitarian agencies to promote international progress.
During the discussion, some of the panelists chimed in on the Russia-Georgia conflict in response to questioning by Hart, who served as the panel's moderator. Anthony Lake, Obama's primary adviser on foreign policy, called Russia's recent actions "a very dangerous precedent," and said they may prompt other nations to make similar moves. "This is going to be a very tough issue," he said. "There should be a price paid for an action like this."
It was in response to the panelists' more hardline remarks that Hart made his comments. Hart characterized his viewpoint as a "tiny note of dissent."
The panel discussion, which took place in Denver, Colorado during the Democratic National Convention, aired today on the cable television news network C-SPAN.