Helmed by Vladimir Putin and buoyed by its considerable oil and natural gas resources, Russia has gained considerable geopolitical power during the past few years. Russia became a focal point of the 2008 presidential campaign when tensions escalated between that country and Georgia, a former Soviet state. Read the stances of the presidential candidates below. The views of the vice presidential candidates are shown where available.
Would work to establish good relationship with Russia but would not "turn a blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people." Stated that "Russia, under the rule of Vladimir Putin, is becoming more aggressive toward the now-democratic nations that broke free of the old Soviet empire." Believes that Russia's influence on the gas and oil markets has become a political weapon. Believes that U.S. and European allies must make clear to Russia that acts of violence and intimidation will have consequences.
Russia and Georgia
McCain reiterated a stand he'd taken a year earlier, calling for Russia to be expelled from the Group of Eight during the Russian-Georgian conflict. During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in September, McCain said, "Russia's leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world's oil supply, intimidate other neighbors and further their ambitions of re-assembling the Russian empire."
Georgia and NATO
McCain favors NATO membership for Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states. Asked during a CBS News interview whether the U.S. would be obliged to go to war with Russia in defense of Georgia (if it were to become a NATO member), McCain said, "Any nation [that] is a member of NATO, there's a clause that says an attack upon, on one, has to be responded to." He added, "It doesn't mean that I am saying we are going to go to war with Russia. It does mean that we have to respond, and it does mean that this kind of behavior on the part of the Russians is not behavior that we expect of a country that is a member of the world community."
Said during an ABC News interview, "We have got to keep our eyes on Russia, under the leadership there. I think it was unfortunate. That manifestation that we saw with that invasion of Georgia shows us some steps backwards that Russia has recently taken away from the race toward a more democratic nation with democratic ideals."
Supports granting NATO membership to the former Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine. When asked, hypothetically, if Georgia were granted NATO membership and Russia were to invade that country, would the U.S. have to defend Georgian interests, Palin replied: "Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help."
Believes that the U.S. and its European partners must "hold Russia accountable for its actions and stand united in support of a Europe in which all states can freely determine their foreign policies and alliances and in which the rule of law is respected."
Believes that the Bush administration neglected its "relationship with Russia at a time when Putin was strangling any opposition in the country when he was consolidating power, rattling sabers against his European neighbors, as well as satellites of the former Soviet Union. And so we did not send a signal to Mr. Putin that, in fact, we were going to be serious about issues like human rights, issues like international cooperation that were critical to us. That is something that we have to change."
Russia and Georgia
Said the expulsion of Russia from the Group of Eight would be a "mistake" during a CNN interview. "If we're going to do something about nuclear proliferation -- just to take one issue that I think is as important as any on the list -- we've got to have Russia involved." He added, "I think that we have to have a clear sense of what our values are and what our ideals are. I don't think that we should shy away from being straight with the Russians about human rights violations."
Georgia and NATO
Obama favors fewer specifics and prefers a closer security relationship with Georgia. "I welcome the desire and actions of (Georgia and Ukraine) to seek closer ties with NATO and hope that NATO responds favorably to their request, consistent with its criteria for membership. Whether Ukraine and Georgia ultimately join NATO will be a decision for the members of the alliance and the citizens of those countries, after a period of open and democratic debate."
Regarding the Russian-Georgian conflict, Biden said: "I have long sought to help Russia realize its extraordinary potential as a force for progress in the international community, and have supported legislative efforts intended to forge a more constructive relationship with the Kremlin. But Russia's actions in Georgia will have consequences. … Russia's failure to keep its word and withdraw troops from Georgia risks the country's standing as part of the international community. That is not the future the United States or Europe want -- but it is the future Russia may get."
Advocates NATO membership for the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia.