Washington, Aug.18 : Washington has toughened its stance towards Russia as it sought to limit the damage to its prestige over the crisis in Georgia.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that Russia's reputation is now "in tatters", even as Russia continues to search for a fresh pretext to extend its occupation of Georgian territory.
Rice, who is heading to Brussels today for an emergency NATO summit, called on Russian President Medvedev to ensure that he carries out his latest promise to withdraw troops.
"I hope this time he will keep his word. Russia's reputation as a potential partner in international institutions, diplomatic, political, security, economic, is frankly, in tatters.
"Russia will pay a price. We will look seriously with our allies and bilaterally at the consequences of this Russian action ... Georgia will rebuild, Russia's reputation may not be rebuilt," she warned.
According to The Telegraph, Rice has discussed the idea of throwing Russia out of the G8 group of industrialised nations, or of fast-tracking NATO membership of Georgia and Ukraine.
President George W Bush has also stiffened his language towards Moscow, but failed to suggest a specific measure. On Sunday he failed to mention the crisis at all, simply praising the achievements of the American Olympic swimming hero Michael Phelps.
Russia has so far shown little sign of bowing to western pressure to withdraw from Georgia, despite threats from the United States of international isolation. If anything, Russia's stranglehold of Georgia has tightened.
Russian troops entered the towns of Khashuri and Akhalgori for the first time on Sunday, while their troops elsewhere in the country showed signs of digging themselves in. Russian soldiers, now within just 25 miles of Tbilisi, set up six checkpoints on the road to Gori, which lies 15 miles south of the Ossetian border, while tanks entrenched themselves deep into the countryside. Fields on either side of the road were set ablaze to deny cover to Georgian military hardware.
A railway bridge on the main line connecting Georgia to its neighbours was also blown up over the weekend, essentially severing the last route for freight and trade in the country after Russian soldiers also took control of the country's main east-west highway.