Bush announces $1B in aid for Georgia

WASHINGTON "Georgia has a strong economic foundation and leaders with an impressive record of reform," Bush said in the statement announcing the aid package that was obtained by The Associated Press. "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, in Azerbaijan on Wednesday, 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."

The administration is delaying an announcement on some sort of punishment of Russia for its actions against Georgia and its refusal thus far to comply with a French-brokered cease-fire. However, the decision to shower tiny Georgia with such substantial aid and have Cheney talk about it in Moscow's backyard would likely be seen by the Kremlin as highly provocative, if not a punitive measure in and of itself.

That said, the U.S. has found during this conflict that it has little leverage with newly enriched and empowered Russia. Moscow has recognized the independence of the two separatist regions in Georgia that are at the heart of the conflict, but has drawn condemnations but little else from the United States and Europe.

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