President Bush said Wednesday that the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, and that the U.S. will work with allies to insure Georgia's territorial integrity.
Bush offered strong support for Georgia in a speech in Orlando, Fla., condemning Russia's brutal crackdown in the former Soviet republic.
The president, appearing before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, said the U.S. will support Georgia's democracy and the U.S. military will continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Georgian people. Earlier, the White House said there were "early signs" of a Russian troop withdraw from Georgia but that it was not enough and needs to increase.
Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has said the question of Georgia's territorial integrity is a dead issue, a sign that Moscow could try to absorb the two separatist regions.
Earlier, the White House said there were "early signs" of a Russian troop withdraw from Georgia but that it was not enough and needs to increase.
"Both the size and pace of the withdrawal needs to increase, and needs to increase sooner rather than later," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "I don't think they need any more additional time."
He spoke on Air Force One as Bush flew from his vacation at his Texas ranch to a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando, Florida.
Russian forces on Wednesday built a sentry post just 30 miles from the Georgian capital, appearing to dig in to positions deep inside Georgia despite pledges to pull back to areas mandated by a cease-fire signed by both countries.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says his troops will complete their pullback by Friday, but few signs of movement have been seen other than the departure of a small contingent that have held the strategically key city of Gori.
A convoy of flatbed trucks carrying badly needed food aid to one of the areas most heavily hit by the fighting was waved through a checkpoint by Russian soldiers. But conditions throughout much of the country remained tense.
Russian soldiers were setting up camp Wednesday in at least three positions in west-central Georgia. Further east, soldiers were building a sentry post of timber on a hill outside Igoeti, 30 miles from Tbilisi and the closest point to the capital where Russian troops have maintained a significant presence.
A top Russian general, meanwhile, said Russia plans to construct nearly a score of checkpoints to be manned by hundreds of soldiers in the so-called "security zone" around the border with South Ossetia.
And at a military training school in the mountain town of Sachkhere, a Georgian sentry said he feared Russian forces will make good on their threat to return after a confrontation the day before.
The sentry, who gave his name only as Corporal Vasily, said 23 Russian tanks, APCS and heavy guns showed up at the base on Tuesday and demanded to be let in. The Georgians refused and the Russians left after a 30-minute standoff but vowed to return after blowing up facilities in the village of Osiauri, he said.
Russia sent its tanks and troops into Georgia after Georgia launched a heavy artillery barrage Aug. 7 on the separatist, pro-Russian province of South Ossetia. Fighting also has flared in a second Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia.
The short war has driven tensions between Russia and the West to some of their highest levels since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
A cease-fire signed by the presidents of Russia and Georgia calls for Russian forces to pull back to the positions they held before Aug. 7. The cease-fire allows Russia to maintain troops in a zone extending about 4 miles into Georgia along the South Ossetian border.
South Ossetia technically remains a part of Georgia, but Russia has said it will accept whatever South Ossetia's leaders decide about their future status — which is almost certain to be either a declaration of independence or a request to be incorporated into Russia.
A U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee delegation is traveling to Georgia to show solidarity with its government and assess the situation after fierce fighting between Georgian and Russian troops.
"This is a moment in history when it is vital for the world's democracies to stand in solidarity," U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a statement before the trip.
Lieberman and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham were meeting with Georgian officials as well as with the ranking U.S. general on the ground.
U.S. Brig. Gen. Jon Miller arrived with a team Monday to assess humanitarian needs. About half of the displaced Georgians have taken refuge in schools, municipal offices and even condemned buildings in and around the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
The Igoeti checkpoint that the aid trucks crossed, about 30 miles west of Tbilisi, is one of the deepest penetrations made by Russian forces into Georgia after fighting broke out in South Ossetia nearly two weeks ago.
The Russian seizure of Gori and villages in the region has left thousands of people with scarce and uncertain food supplies. The nine flatbed trucks carrying aid from the World Food Program could bring them some small comfort for a few days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.