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Ambassador Degnan’s Remarks to Media at Event Marking Russian Reinvasion of Ukraine
February 24, 2023

Comment on the one-year anniversary of the war

Ambassador Degnan: When Russia invaded Ukraine one year ago, in an attempt to re-establish the Russian empire, Putin thought that he was going to be able to roll right over Ukraine. What we have seen is that he was very wrong. The courage of the Ukrainian people over the last 365 days has shown their determination to defend their sovereignty, to defend their cultural identity, to defend their independence, and freedom. President Biden, with our partners and allies, has led the international response to Putin’s brutal and unprovoked invasion and attacks against the Ukrainian people. You saw my president was recently in Kyiv, where he said, “Ukraine stands strong, Ukraine stands proud, and most importantly, Ukraine stands free on this anniversary.” It’s a reminder that we must all work as hard as we can, as the United States has been for the last year, to restore peace to this region, to restore respect for the importance of sovereignty, for the importance of sovereign nations being able to maintain their independence and their freedom. That is what is at stake here, and that is why the United States and so many other countries are helping Ukraine to defend its sovereignty, its identity, and its freedom.

Question on Georgia’s contributions toward Ukraine

Ambassador Degnan: My country and all the countries that are supporting Ukraine have asked every country to do what they can to support Ukraine in its fight to defend its sovereignty and its independence and its territorial integrity. We greatly appreciate what the people of Georgia have done in response, which is an overwhelming humanitarian response to provide assistance to the Ukrainian people in Ukraine and here in Georgia as well. The government’s response to provide industrial generators at a time of great need in Ukraine, and Georgia’s response even yesterday on the latest UN Security Council resolution, calling for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and to stop its war against the people of Ukraine. Georgia has stood with the West in international forums, has stood with Ukraine in providing humanitarian assistance. All of this is greatly appreciated. Every country is doing what it can to help Ukraine in its time of need. It’s clear that there is a campaign underway in Georgia for the last six to eight months trying to undermine a strong partnership between Georgia and the West, between Georgia and the United States, Georgia and the European Union. This is. going against the clear choice of the people of Georgia who have very clearly and repeatedly chosen to go toward Europe. The people want a European future. The people want a strong democracy and a prosperous, diverse economy that is not dependent on Russia. Georgia has made real progress in moving away from its dependence on Russia in previous years. That momentum needs to continue. There is no reason for Georgia to be dependent on Russia for trade, for security, for anything. Georgia has good friends. We all need good friends. I think those who are trying to undermine that strong friendship that Georgia has with the United States and European Union and many other countries, need to hear from the people of Georgia that this is not acceptable. They need to hear that your choice, your future is Europe.

Question about Russia’s war

Ambassador Degnan: I think the vote yesterday on this latest UN Security Council resolution is a clear demonstration that the West remains united against what Putin has launched here, which is a clear effort to reestablish the Russian Empire. Anyone who is imagining that is something that can go forward is fooling themselves because that is a thing of the past. Nations like Georgia rejected that in 1989, and what we are seeing is they were rejected again. The West is firm and united behind Ukraine because this is about defending freedom. This is about defending independence and sovereignty and territorial integrity: things that are dear to the hearts of Georgians, as well as Americans, as well as Europeans, and Japanese people around the world who believe in freedom and democracy and the rights of people to choose their partners, their allies, and their way of life.

Question on the foreign agents law

Ambassador Degnan: Obviously there’s a great deal of concern about this. Let’s be very clear about what this law is not about. It is not about transparency. There is already ample reporting on what USAID donors that have long supported Georgia do. Every three months we provide detailed reports, stacks of paper, to Parliament every three months detailing how our assistance is distributed here in Georgia. All our Georgian partners have to provide similarly detailed reports to Georgia’s Revenue Service. There is plenty of transparency on how assistance is being used here in Georgia. If anybody cares to actually look, this is all up on multiple websites. This law is also not about the United States law. The United States law is targeted at lobbyists and law firms that are hired by foreign governments to represent the political interests of those foreign governments. That’s not what this draft law is about. This draft law is Russian law. This is the law that is meant to stigmatize civil society. It’s meant to silence dissenting voices, different views. This law will stop Georgians who are helping Georgians improve their communities, their society. This law will stop, for instance, legal assistance to Georgians in need. This law will stop independent living centers that are working with local governments to provide services to families with people with disabilities who need support that the government is not able to provide right now. This law would prevent medical research that is being co-funded by donors and Georgian universities. This law would stop tourism agencies, farmers associations; it would stop NGOs that are trying to work on climate change and the environment. The list of those who would be impacted by this law is long. The real question here is: does Georgia even need this law when there’s already sufficient transparency and already deep cooperation and communication and trust between donors and those working to improve Georgia’s communities and society?