Janesville27.6°

Councilman weighs in on foreign policy

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 13, 2008
— Yuri Rashkin exercised his right as a United States citizen Monday. He condemned Russia for its invasion of neighboring Georgia.

That would not be of much interest to anyone beyond Rashkin’s friends and relatives if not for the fact that he is a member of the Janesville City Council, and he spoke at a council meeting.


Rashkin has some background in U.S.-Russia relations. He was born and raised in Moscow and was 13 when he came to the United States with his family as a refugee from the Soviet Union. That was in 1988. He became a U.S. citizen in 1996.


Voters elected him to the city council in April.


During the “matters not on the agenda” portion of Monday’s council meeting, he read a prepared statement.


“I just thought that I have a fairly unique opportunity, being from Russia and being in a position of being in public office,” he said Tuesday. “And I thought, that’s what people in public office should do.”


At the same time, Rashkin said he had doubts about using the council meeting as his soapbox. In the end, he decided to speak up to add his voice to the flood of international condemnation of Russia, and to attract attention to “the terrible situation that is developing over there.”


Civilians have been killed and injured in the fighting, and Rashkin fears it could get worse.


“On some level, it reminds us just how lucky we are to be here,” he said.


Rashkin believes Russia’s sole reason for invading was to punish its neighbor for becoming friendly with the United States.


“This is clearly a very political situation, where one country is being pro-West, and they’re being shown it’s a bad idea, and hundreds of people are being murdered in the process,” Rashkin said.


Reports suggest the Georgian government might have sparked the fighting by sending troops into a Georgian province that has been the focus of a dispute between the two countries.


But Rashkin said that was no reason for Russia to respond with bombs and rockets.


“This is not a way to solve conflicts, no matter how you slice it,” Rashkin said. “When you have a war, there’s always going to be wrongs on both sides because you have people with guns running around …


“To me, diplomacy is a better way to solve this.”


Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered a halt to military action Tuesday, but a Russian military convoy thrust deep into Georgia on Wednesday. Georgian officials said Russian troops bombed and looted the crossroads city of Gori, violating a freshly brokered truce intended to end the conflict.



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