Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks at Rondeli Security Conference
Question about the event
Ambassador Degnan: It is a real privilege for me to be able to participate in the RONDELI Security Conference. These are annual conferences that have been going on in Georgia since 2004, bringing together Georgian and international experts to discuss regional security issues, security issues of concern to all of our nations At this critically important time, when Russia is, again, brutally attacking civilians in Ukraine, it is more important than ever that we come together to discuss how best to defend democracy, to defend the stability and the prosperity that has improved the lives of so many around the world since the two world wars that we had to fight. What is at stake is so important right now, and every country is having to make difficult decisions. But fundamentally, what is at stake is our democratic way of life, the freedoms and the independence that we all cherish. It is very important that Georgia is hosting this conference to discuss these issues.
Question about the resumption of flights between Russia and Georgia
Ambassador Degnan: A country whose territory is 20 percent occupied by Russia, that has eight Georgian citizens detained by Russian-backed forces in South Ossetia, that continues to be under the pressure from Russia should be very careful about welcoming what looks to be attempts by Russia to normalize relations with Georgia. I think an important question is why now? Why is Putin now making these concessions and these offers to Georgia? What is the price that Georgia is going to have to pay for direct flights, for lifting the visa regime, potentially for restoring this railway that would connect Georgia to Russia through Abkhazia? These are very important questions because we all know Putin does not give anything without extracting a price.
Follow up on Russia and a question about an alleged visa refusal
Ambassador Degnan: You should either ask Putin or just look at the facts to figure out what people may be wanting to extract from Georgia in terms of the price for these favors, these gestures that Russia is choosing to do now. On your second question, it’s unfortunate that once again Imedi has chosen to broadcast inaccurate information. In fact, we welcome thousands of Georgians to the United States every year, including cultural exchanges, including on our many exchange programs to the United States that have been such an important part of the partnership between the United States and Georgia. Just last month, we issued visas to a group of 30 Tbilisi State ballet performers to tour in the United States. Just last week, we issued visas to a group of Georgian dancers and singers who are going to perform at our Library of Congress to celebrate Georgia’s Independence Day. Sometimes people want to think that they should have special treatment, and not have to go through all the steps involved, but all of the information for getting a visa is online and the recommendations we provide to expedite to help people get their visas as quickly as possible. If people follow those rules and that advice, then usually they get a visa if they’re eligible. That’s the simple truth. That’s the facts.