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Biden's Trip: What Is Going On?

Vice President Biden has been taking some heat for the very harsh line he took against Russia over the weekend; his words had the effect of muddling the administration's "message" to the Putin-Medvedev regime. The Times has the story here. Biden's comments to a Georgian audience earlier in the week have received less attention. From the Times' Friday report:

At the gathering with displaced Georgian children from South Ossetia, Mr. Biden saved his harshest words for Russia.

He said he believed that Moscow “used a pretext to invade your country,” weighing in confidently on the question of whether Mr. Saakashvili should be blamed for ordering the Aug. 7 shelling of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. He said Russia had paid dearly for invading Georgia, arguing that “all the countries that surround them are now saying very harsh things to Russia.” He promised the children that the United States would press Russia to comply with the French-brokered cease-fire agreement, and that if they continued to defy it, “it is a problem for them.”

He noted the largess of Americans — “they said, ‘It’s O.K., take my money, raise my taxes’ ” — in pledging $1 billion in aid to Georgia after the war.

“You should understand, America cares about you, cares about you personally,” Mr. Biden said. “We care about all of you, and we’re not going to leave you. It’s a hard journey, but we’re not going away.”

This is certainly a nice sentiment, but should the vice president be going so far in promising support to Georgia? If Russia does not comply with the ceasfire, the United States is going to make trouble? Really? And Americans are perfectly willing to see their taxes raised to help the Georgian people? The stakes are currently much lower, but this does put one in mind of the CIA's efforts (via Radio Free Europe) to encourage serious resistance in Hungary in 1956, only to then inevitably abandon the Hungarians.

--Isaac Chotiner