(CNN) – Barack Obama moved closer to John McCain’s tough position regarding the military conflict in Georgia on Monday, issuing a statement from Hawaii scolding Russia for the intensifying violence in the conflict.
“No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and invaded another country,” Obama said in a statement distributed by his campaign. “Russia has escalated its military campaign through strategic bombing and the movement of its ground forces into the heart of Georgia. There is no possible justification for these attacks.”
The comments marked a departure from Obama’s initial statement on the conflict, released Friday, which avoided chiding Russia directly and urged restraint from both nations. He released a sterner statement the following day condemning Russian aggression.
Today, he focused his criticism squarely on the Kremlin, a posture first taken by McCain four days ago, as the conflict began.
Obama urged Russia to agree to a cease-fire and withdraw all troops from Georgian territory, and called for a non-Russian international peacekeeping force, along with a U.N. resolution rejecting Moscow’s actions – all demands put forth by McCain last week.
Still, the Democrat’s statement featured a note of optimism about Russian-U.S. relations: “Let me be clear: we seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government, and friendship with the Russian people,” Obama said in the statement.
“We want Russia to play its rightful role as a great nation - but with that role comes the responsibility to act as a force for progress in this new century, not regression to the conflicts of the past.”
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, McCain amplified his rhetoric against Russia in a Monday morning statement to reporters.
“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,” McCain said.