ERIE, Pennsylvania (CNN) – With his Democratic rival vacationing in Hawaii, John McCain used the political vacuum to polish his foreign policy credentials on Monday morning, issuing a lengthy statement to reporters condemning Russian military action in Georgia and calling for further diplomatic against the Kremlin.
“Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin must understand the severe, long-term negative consequences that their government’s actions will have for Russia’s relationship with the U.S. and Europe,” he said.
The presumptive Republican nominee said Americans should be concerned with the “remote, obscure” country because of its commitment to democracy as well as strategically important trade routes and an oil pipeline that flows through Tblisi. He also noted that Georgia was “one of the world’s first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion.”
He accused Russia of trying to intimidate other neighbors like Ukraine who have sought to strengthen ties with the West.
McCain called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to travel to Europe and begin “high-level diplomacy” to support Georgian independence, and demanded that Russia call a cease-fire and withdraw all troops from Georgian territory. He urged the U.N. Security Council to condemn the violence, even with the threat of a Russian veto. Russia's actions, he said, must be submitted to "the court of world opinion."
In his remarks, McCain repeatedly mispronounced the name of Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili. The gaffe comes in the wake of several incidents last month when he referred to the Czech Republic as the nation of “Czechoslovakia,” which no longer exists.
The Arizona senator spoke with the Georgian president over the weekend about the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.