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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 15, 2008

Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Crawford, Texas

10:39 A.M. EDT

MR. JOHNDROE: Good morning. We're on our way to Texas. You have the President's statement from earlier on the situation in Georgia. Before that he received his daily intelligence briefings, and also spoke to President Ilves of Estonia about the situation in Georgia. This is one of the many phone calls the President has had with other leaders regarding the situation over the last week.

I'm happy to do the week ahead at the end of the gaggle. Any questions?

Q I wonder if the President made any more recent calls to the leaders of Russia.

MR. JOHNDROE: We've had high-level contact with the leaders of Russia. Secretary Rice has spoken to her counterparts. Obviously Secretary Rice is overseas now, just having been in France to meet President Sarkozy, and now in Tbilisi, Georgia. So the effort involves working with the rest of the international community to have an agreement between the Russians and the Georgians. And so there will be an appropriate time to have additional high-level contacts with the Russians.

But the Russians know our position. I mean, the President spoke to both Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev a few days ago and has repeatedly made our -- the United States' position clear. So there's no doubt about where we stand, and no doubt whether they know where we stand or not.

Q Gordon, the President made another statement today. Does he not think the message is getting through to the Kremlin?

MR. JOHNDROE: No, I think it's important to continue to send the strong message. And this isn't a message solely to the Kremlin, and as I said, I think the Russian leadership knows exactly where President Bush and the United States and the international community stand. But when the President speaks, he's sending a signal to the rest of the world, also sending a signal especially to countries that have recently transitioned to democracy, sending a message that the United States will stand with you and to stay strong.

Q Is the White House concerned about how this crisis is going to affect cooperation with Russia on a space station?

MR. JOHNDROE: We are -- we need to see where this all ends up, see where -- we are hopeful that we can continue cooperation with the Russians, but a lot of this -- and that's across the board. But a lot of this depends on Russia and what Russia's actions are in the near future. Right now, their actions have been inconsistent with the premise that we and those in Europe and around the world have, inconsistent with the fundamental principles of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. So cooperation on a wide range of issues going forward depends on the actions that Russia takes.

Q Along that line, the President referred today to consulting with other leaders of the G7, which I thought was interesting. Does that portend that there's going to be more employment of the G7 as a framework, as opposed to the G8?

MR. JOHNDROE: You know, to step back I think to the broader point of your question, let me answer it this way: Our immediate focus is that the violence stop, the Russian forces withdraw, we get back to the status quo ante of August 6th. There will be a time and a place to deal with what the repercussions of all this is.

But we will continue to work with the G7 partners because those are the countries that you would naturally work with. Many of them -- those are our NATO allies. Those are EU countries. So when we work with our G7 partners, we're working with France, UK, Italy, Germany. So these are the appropriate countries to be working with to deal with the situation with Russia.

Q But it had to be deliberate, though, for him to say G7, right?


Q -- not Russia in the G8?

MR. JOHNDROE: -- but this is based on -- we are working with these countries because of the actions that Russia has taken. So these are the natural allies that we would work with and that we're standing with to deal with the situation with Russia.

Q The President could have said NATO allies, though.

MR. JOHNDROE: It's a combination. They are NATO, they are EU, and they are G7 allies.

Q Is it sort of a veiled kind of a threat to tell Russia that maybe they won't be a part of the G8?

MR. JOHNDROE: There will be a time and a place to deal with the consequences and the repercussions of Russia's actions.

Q Is that a possibility?

MR. JOHNDROE: Right now our focus is on the immediate issue of the Russian troops withdrawing, that there be a cessation of violence. And that is where our focus will remain in the immediate -- in this immediate time period.

Q Speaking of the status quo ante, is the United States willing to accept a larger Russian buffer zone around both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as part of this agreement?

MR. JOHNDROE: You know, what -- let me defer on that. Secretary Rice has just been addressing this issue in Tbilisi. Anything that is in what is -- what many consider undisputed territory would need to be limited in scope and in time.

Q What do you have -- are we done on Georgia?

Q No. When does Rice get in tomorrow? After midnight, right?

MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, early Saturday morning Texas time.

Q And what time is the NSC meeting?

MR. JOHNDROE: At 8:00 a.m.

Q Who's all in there?

MR. JOHNDROE: Secretary Gates, and Steve Hadley, the National Security Advisor, will join by secure video.

Q Cheney?

MR. JOHNDROE: I'll have to check tomorrow. We'll certainly let you know.

Q -- a photo op?

MR. JOHNDROE: We'll let you know, but I would expect most likely a statement, but we'll let you know.

Q From the President?

MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, most likely, after he's received an update. But we'll let you --

Q -- when you know, okay?


Q So it's Rice and it's Gates and it's Hadley by SVTS or whatever, and then anybody else?

MR. JOHNDROE: We'll get you a full list tomorrow, but likely the -- you know, the President's top national security team.

Q Gordon, can you say anything more about what the President is discussing when he's talking with leaders of Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine -- the other leaders that he's been talking to in the region?

MR. JOHNDROE: I want to say, in these conversations, I think both the President and the leader of whether it would be Estonia or Lithuania or the other countries that he's spoken with are in lockstep and in total agreement that Russia needs to withdraw its forces, and that we need to stand with Georgia -- the democratically elected government of Georgia and the people of Georgia. So the conversations have really been about the need for everyone to remain standing together and standing strong for Georgia.

Q Back to the G7, Merkel is in Moscow apparently. Is --


Q In Sochi. So is she sort of picking up where Sarkozy left off, in terms of mediating? Is she bringing some new proposals?

MR. JOHNDROE: She had a long-scheduled meeting with President Medvedev in Sochi, and they had a press conference this morning, but I have not had a chance to see all of it.

Q Can we move on? Can you give us a rundown on what you all know about Musharraf's status?

Q Whose status?

Q Musharraf.

MR. JOHNDROE: We've seen the press reports you're referring to, but these are all matters for the Pakistani political system and for the Pakistanis to deal with. We certainly hope that any actions that they take are consistent with their -- with the rule of law and constitutional principles, but I want to be clear these are matters for the Pakistanis to determine.

Q I'm not asking you to weigh in on them. I'm just trying to figure out where it is right now. I mean, is he leaving, is he not leaving?

MR. JOHNDROE: And I don't have anything for you on that.


Q Is there anything else we should look for this weekend? I mean, tomorrow is the briefing. Is there anything today?

MR. JOHNDROE: Nothing else on the schedule today. And we'll keep you updated on the specific schedule for tomorrow's meeting on the situation in Georgia. And then -- let me go ahead and do the week ahead, since you asked.

Q Will there be a gaggle tomorrow after their meeting, do you think?

MR. JOHNDROE: Why don't we just -- why don't we play it by ear, see what sort of readout you get from the meeting, and we go from there. But I'm fundamentally opposed to gaggling on the weekends. (Laughter.) So --

Q You said that on the day of the wedding, too, and you ended up -- lots of gaggles. (Laughter.)

MR. JOHNDROE: Yes. But anyway, as far as the schedule for the rest of the week, the President travels on Wednesday to Orlando, Florida, to make remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention. Then he will travel to New Orleans, Louisiana, to make remarks on Gulf Coast recovery and to talk about his commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast. And then we'll travel to Mississippi and have a dinner there with community leaders, before returning to Crawford on Wednesday night.

Q What's the radio topic?

MR. JOHNDROE: Radio topic is on Georgia.


Q Did he record it today?

MR. JOHNDROE: He recorded it this morning.

All right, thank you all.

Q Thank you.

END 10:51 A.M. EDT