Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Tuesday, 12 August 2008 11:30 UK

US has only tough talk for Russia

By Kevin Connolly
BBC News, Washington

George W Bush on the unrest in Georgia

Everything in the timing and the tone of President George W Bush's statement was meant to convey the gravity with which the United States views the situation in Georgia.

He delivered it within an hour of arriving back in Washington from Beijing, pausing only to listen to a briefing in the White House situation room.

It was toughly-worded.

The president warned Russia that it was damaging its relations with the US and Europe and its standing in the world.

He warned that the bombing of Tbilisi airport - which he said Russia was planning - would represent a dramatic and brutal escalation of the conflict. And Mr Bush said Russia may be in the process of attempting to overthrow the pro-Western regime of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

"Russia has invaded a sovereign neighbouring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people," said Mr Bush.

"Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century."

Mr Bush did undermine some of the power of his words by accidentally referring at one point to an attempt to overthrow the government of Russia, rather than Georgia.

But he did strongly re-iterate a call for the Kremlin to agree to a ceasefire, the restoration of the situation as it stood on 6 August and an end to the violence.

There was no word in the statement of any consequences if the Russians fail to comply though - a reminder of the harsh truth that the West has relatively few diplomatic cards to play against a powerful neighbour which controls much of Europe's energy supplies.

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