WASHINGTON In scathing criticism of Moscow, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Russia Thursday that its policies have put it on a path to isolation and irrelevance.
Rice called on the West to stand up to Russian aggression following its invasion of Georgia last month. The State Department released excerpts of her comments, from a speech to be delivered Thursday.
"The attack on Georgia has crystallized the course that Russia's leaders are taking and brought us to a critical moment for Russia and the world," she said.
The speech for a German Marshall Fund event reflected an escalation of rhetoric in a relationship that has deteriorated markedly since last month's war and Moscow's recognition of two breakaway regions of Georgia.
Rice mocked Russia for its international isolation and attempts to project its influence into America's backyard by cultivating U.S. foes like Cuba and Venezuela.
Rice noted sarcastically that Nicaragua and the Palestinian terror group Hamas are the only other entities that have so far recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"A pat on the back from Daniel Ortega and Hamas is hardly a diplomatic triumph," Rice said, referring to the president of Nicaragua, a longtime opponent of the United States.
She also mocked Russia's recent military exercises with another U.S. foe, Venezuela, suggesting that despite its crushing victory over Georgia, Russia's armed forces have still not recovered from their decline as the Soviet Union collapsed.
"We are confident that our ties with our neighbors, who long for better education, better health care, better jobs, and better housing, will in no way be diminished by a few, aging Blackjack bombers, visiting one of Latin America's few autocracies," she said.
The speech promised support for Georgia, highlighting promises of economic aid by the United States and European countries.
"In contrast to Georgia's position, Russia's international standing is worse now than at any time since 1991," she said. "And the cost of this self-inflicted isolation has been steep."
U.S. officials have pointed to Russian economic problems since the invasion as a sign of the country's isolation. Russia is struggling to stem a dizzying plummet in share prices and restore confidence in the economy, as investors have sharply pulled capital out of the country in recent weeks amid a broader international credit crisis.
Rice, an academic specialist on the Soviet Union, said that as in the Cold War, the United States would seek to maintain cultural ties with Russia regardless of tensions.
"We will continue to sponsor Russian students and teachers, judges and journalists, labor leaders and democratic reformers who want to visit America," she said. "We will continue to support all Russians who want a future of liberty for their great nation."