By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 14, 2008 - Countries around the world are looking at Russia "through new lenses" following its aggression against the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. Meanwhile, the United States continues humanitarian efforts to help Georgians affected by the conflict. Two U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jets have delivered supplies to Georgia, and another aircraft delivered a U.S. military survey team to the country.
"During these humanitarian relief operations, the United States expects Russia to ensure that all lines of communication and transport -- including seaports, airports, roads and airspace -- remain open," Gates said during a Pentagon news conference.
Gates echoed President Bush's call for Russia to abide by its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia. "We expect all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country," Gates said.
Russian aggression against Georgia will have long-term implications for U.S.-Russian relations, the secretary said. The military incursion into Georgia will affect ongoing and long-term strategic dialogue with the Russian Federation that he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had engaged in since 2007, Gates said.
"The expectation was that our two nations, despite our differences, shared areas of common interest where we could work together as real partners," he said.
But Russia's military action in Georgia and in the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia "has called into question the entire premise of that dialogue, and has profound implications for our security relationship going forward, both bilaterally and with NATO," Gates said. "If Russia does not step back from its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the U.S.-Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come."
The United States cancelled participation in a multinational naval exercise with Russia due to begin tomorrow. "We've also canceled a U.S.-Canadian-Russian exercise -- Vigilant Eagle -- that was to have begun on Aug. 20," Gates said.
"In the days and weeks ahead, the Department of Defense will reexamine the entire gamut of our military-to-military activities with Russia and will make changes as necessary and appropriate, depending on Russian actions in the days ahead," the secretary said.