Washington briefing: U.S. pledges support for Georgia “to defeat threats”
Published: Wednesday January 14, 2009
Washington - Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and recently appointed Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze of Georgia signed a Strategic Partnership Charter on January 9 outlining a mutual interest in bilateral cooperation on military, political, economic, and humanitarian issues.
The document points to a "vital" U.S. interest "in a strong, independent, sovereign, unified, and democratic Georgia, capable of responsible self-defense" and promises "to expand the scope of [U.S.-Georgia] defense and security and cooperation programs to defeat threats" that Georgia faces. The charter also refers to Georgia's function as conduit for Caspian oil and gas to Europe.
Last month, the United States signed a similar charter with Ukraine. Earlier in 2008, the United States lobbied for both Ukraine and Georgia to formally begin the process of joining the U.S.-led NATO alliance.
The Bush administration moved to sign charters with both countries on a bilateral basis after European allies declined to support NATO arrangements they see as unnecessarily irritating to Russia.
Discussing the charter in Tbilisi on January 12, Mr. Vashadze described it as "yet another nail in the coffin, which will bury Russia's goals," Civil.ge reported. According to the Georgian foreign minister these goals include turning Georgia into a source of "instability" and "lawlessness."
There has been little Russian reaction to the signing. The official ITAR-TASS news agency cited an anonymous Russian Foreign Ministry source that dismissed the charter as a "legally non-binding . . . collection of propagandistic clichés."