Washington briefing: U.S. pledges continued military support for Georgia

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday July 24, 2009

The Navy destroyer USS Stout, pictured here at its home base in Norfolk, Virginia, anchored in the Republic of Georgia last week for naval exercises. Navy.mil

Then-Senator Joe Biden in Tbilisi with Pres. Saakashvili and his spouse, August 17, 2009. U.S. Embassy in Georgia

Washington - Vice President Joe Biden toured Ukraine and Georgia this week in a visit that sought to underscore U.S. support for the two countries after President Barack Obama, on a visit to Moscow earlier this month, had declared a new, more cooperative stage in relations with Russia.

In a speech to the Georgian parliament on July 23, Mr. Biden said that the United States "fully supports" Georgia's desire to join NATO and will continue to provide military aid to the country; both are policies that Russia has publicly protested. The vice president's visit was preceded by U.S.-Georgian naval exercises in the Black Sea.

Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili told the Washington Post on July 21 that he expected the United States to supply Georgia with advanced defensive weapons, but that delivery was taking a long time.

"We want the country to still be around when those things start to arrive here," he said.

Separately, on July 20 the Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Saakashvili as saying that his hopes of Georgia joining NATO are "almost dead. It's tragic. If they manage to kill [Georgia's hopes of joining] NATO it means the Russians fought for the right reasons."

According to news reports, Mr. Biden received a warm welcome in Tbilisi. President George W. Bush Street, which links the capital Tbilisi with its airport, was lined with people waving American flags and appealing for U.S. help; the vice president was awarded Georgia's highest state order.

According to media reports at the time, it was Mr. Biden, as chairperson of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who first made the suggestion to provide Georgia with $1 billion in U.S. aid in the aftermath of the Russian military intervention that followed Georgia's failed bid to regain control of South Ossetia.

In his parliamentary speech, Mr. Biden recalled his visit to Tbilisi last year and the pledge he made to support Georgia while he "sat on a rooftop of a restaurant with President Saakashvili, as the sound of artillery fire and fighter aircraft punctuated the night."

Mr. Biden visited Georgia on August 17 nearly a week after major fighting in Georgia had ended.

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