October 21st, 2008
02:25 PM ET
6 years ago

Fact Check: Did Obama urge Georgia to 'show restraint' after Russian invasion?

Did Obama urge Georgia to 'show restraint after Russian invasion?.
Did Obama urge Georgia to 'show restraint after Russian invasion?.

The Statement
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, speaking at a rally on October 21 in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, criticized Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama's foreign policy judgment. "We've seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign. ... When Russia invaded Georgia, Sen. Obama said the invaded country should show restraint."

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The Facts
The Russia-Georgia conflict erupted on August 7 when Georgia's military moved to secure its disputed region of South Ossetia, sparking the intervention of Russia, which pushed its troops into South Ossetia early August 8 and then into Georgia proper.

Obama, on August 8, issued a general statement strongly condemning the "outbreak of violence in Georgia" and urging "an immediate end to armed conflict." "Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war," Obama said in the statement. As facts emerged about the fighting, Obama issued a statement on August 9 condemning Russia's "aggressive actions" and saying Russia had "escalated the crisis." Obama reiterated his "call for an immediate cease-fire."

"As the initial developments unfolded, Obama was urging both sides to show restraint. Then, once it became clear that Russia was the aggressor, he condemned Russia's behavior," said Wendy Morigi, Obama's national security spokeswoman.

McCain, in a statement on August 8 that noted reports of Russian forces crossing the border into "sovereign" Georgian territory, said, "Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory. What is most critical now is to avoid further confrontation between Russian and Georgian military forces."

At a September 26 presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi, McCain noted that Obama did initially say "both sides ought to show restraint."

The Verdict: Misleading. When the fighting erupted, Obama initially said both countries - not just Georgia - should "show restraint." But as facts emerged about Russia's actions, Obama's statements shifted to criticizing Russia.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • John McCain
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