U.S., Russia Should Be Friends, Equals

War between Russia and Georgia, and an illicit romance between John Edwards and a woman who served on his campaign staff when he ran for president are dominating the headlines and dinner table conversation. First, the war. Responding to Russian provocations, Georgia and its president, Mikheil Saakashvilli, unwisely began to fight, which was just what Russia was hoping for. Two of Georgia's provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, are seeking independence and are being encouraged by Russia and its prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Putin is incensed that Georgia, a state that was formerly part of the Soviet Union, is not only a good friend of the United States -- it provided 2,500 troops to assist us in Iraq, the largest contingent after Great Britain -- it is also seeking to become part of NATO.

On the opening day of the Olympics, Georgia sent troops to take back the provincial capital of South Ossetia. Big mistake. Russia, using the same pretext that Hitler used when he invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, invaded the province and then Georgia itself. Why is Russia taking this aggressive action? The Russians are furious that the U.S. and Europe allowed Kosovo, formerly a part of Serbia, a Russian ally, to gain independence. Putin is now showing that two can play at that game.

In my view, it was an error to allow Kosovo to separate from Serbia and become independent. I also believe it was a mistake to seek to encircle Russia and cause it to believe the U.S. and NATO are threatening it by trying to co-opt into the Western alliance countries on its borders, e.g., the Baltic states, Poland , the Ukraine and Georgia.

A better course would have been to make Russia a full partner with the U.S., including urging Russia to become a NATO member. Even today, after the end of the U.S.S.R., world peace depends in significant part on good U.S. - Russian relations.

Our partnership with Russia, successor to the U.S.S.R., was essential in World War II. Without Russia's sacrifices, we would not have been able to defeat Hitler. In that bloody war, the Soviet Union lost nine million soldiers and millions of civilians in defeating the Nazis, and I believe, suffered 300,000 casualties in the taking of Berlin alone.

It is imperative that neither candidate, Barack Obama and John McCain, fan the winds of war by proposing the U.S. provide Georgia with military assistance of any kind or worse, threatening Russia in any way. Vice President Cheney's warning to Russia, "that Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community," is a mistake which should not be repeated. This war has an enormous potential for spreading.

So we should not bluster or threaten Russia in the current crisis, but rather, convey and convince them of our desire to be their friend and partner, in which they would have an equal role with us. As for Georgia, it cannot win the war that it initiated with Russia and should declare a unilateral ceasefire and have an airing of all of the issues at the United Nations Security Council.

Now, to John Edwards. He deserves our contempt, not because he had an affair with Rielle Hunter and abused his relationship with his wife, Elizabeth, who is ill with cancer. His moral failure in that regard is between Edwards and his family. His relationship with society at large is that he has proved to be a hypocrite. As part of his campaign for president in 2008, he said, "I want to see our party lead on the great moral issues - yes, me a Democrat using that word - the great moral issues that face our country. If we want to live in a moral, honest just America and if we want to live in a moral and just world, we can't wait for somebody else to do it. We have to do it."

Further and equally important, Edwards demonstrated a total lack of judgment. How in the world did he expect to run for president when he knew that a significant number of people knew of his sexual liaison which began, he admits, in 2006. Worse still, not long ago, he went into a panic when confronted by a reporter in the wee hours of the morning after visiting Ms. Hunter at a hotel. He ran to the sanctuary of a men's toilet, reportedly holding onto the door handle to keep others from entering until the hotel management came to his rescue. John Edwards, the recipient of the $400 haircut, the owner of the home with the most square footage in North Carolina, and the self-appointed populist leader who would lead the country out of poverty, when put to the test of exercising judgment, abjectly failed, and has become the butt of every standup comedian on the boob tube.

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