COSTA MESA, California Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Saturday criticized Russia's military operations against Georgia, arguing the conflict poses a grave threat to world energy supplies.
In his weekly radio address, the Arizona senator said a disruption of energy supplies abroad could raise prices, "inflicting great harm on our economy and on America workers."
For the next U.S. president, said McCain who faces Democrat Barack Obama for the job, "skillful handling of such a crisis could be the difference between temporary hardship and far-reaching disaster."
Both McCain and Obama have both warned Russia of severe, long-term consequences from its conflict with Georgia, and President George W. Bush has denounced Russia's actions and insisted Georgia's sovereignty be respected.
The crisis over the rebel Georgian region of South Ossetia exploded when Georgia tried to retake the Russian-backed province, provoking a massive counter-attack by Moscow.
"Russia has become more aggressive toward the now democratic nations that broke free of the old Soviet empire," McCain said in his address. "Russia also holds vast petroleum wealth. And this heavy influence in the oil and gas market has become a strategic weapon that Russia is clearly prepared to use."
European energy supplies could be disrupted if a key pipeline through Georgia were destroyed or controlled by Russia, he said.
The conflict underscores America's need to become more energy independent and to accelerate domestic energy production, McCain said.
"All of this only adds to the urgency of producing more of our own energy, including America's enormous oil reserves that lie offshore," he said.
"On energy policy, my opponent and his allies in Congress offer only half measures or no measures at all -- as in their shared opposition to offshore drilling," McCain said.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Sandra Maler)