WASHINGTON - Pushing back against an increasingly aggressive Moscow, President Bush said Wednesday the U.S. will send an extra $1 billion to Georgia to help the pro-Western former Soviet republic in the wake of Russia's invasion.
"Georgia has a strong economic foundation and leaders with an impressive record of reform," Bush said in a statement. "Our additional economic assistance will help the people of Georgia recover from the assault on their country, and continue to build a prosperous and competitive economy."
Vice President Dick Cheney, due in Georgia on Thursday, planned to make the massive aid package a major highlight of his discussions with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Cheney is on a tour of three former Soviet republics that are wary of Russia's intentions in what Moscow likes to call its "near abroad" sphere of influence and what Cheney termed while in Azerbaijan on Wednesday "the shadow of the Russian invasion of Georgia."
"The free world cannot allow the destiny of a small independent country to be determined by the aggression of a larger neighbor," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters at the State Department in a simultaneous announcement with Bush.
She mocked Russia for its recognition of the two separatist regions in Georgia that are at the heart of the conflict that broke out last month, and for its failure to garner international backing.
"Almost no one followed suit, I might note. It isn't really an impressive list to have Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognize each other," she said.