Counselor Chollet Op-Ed

In July 2009, then Vice President Joseph R. Biden stood before the Georgian Parliament and declared, “We stand by the principle that sovereign democracies have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own partnerships and their own alliances.”

Amid the Kremlin’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, now-President Biden’s words remain a cornerstone of foreign policy. The United States stands with countries across the world to support Ukraine and hold Russia accountable for its ruthless aggression. That’s especially true in Georgia.

Georgia has a unique understanding of the threat Putin poses to the international order. The United States remains steadfastly committed to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and we condemn Russia’s continuing occupation of 20 percent of Georgian territory. Simply put, Russia’s troops must leave.

We share the Georgian people’s anger and sorrow about the hundreds of thousands of lives uprooted, the deaths resulting from a lack of freedom of movement or while in custody, and the other forms of continuing Russian hybrid aggression – including disinformation – against Georgia.

To counteract these wrongs, the United States has taken concrete action. We have provided almost $6 billion in assistance to Georgia since 1992 to support peace and security, economic growth, democratic development, education, and more. Through our assistance, we have trained more than 20,000 Georgian soldiers, sent more than 6,000 Georgians to the United States for cultural and educational exchanges, rebuilt 100 schools, helped Georgia find new export markets and diversify its energy sources, supported Georgian efforts to strengthen the rule of law and democratic governance, among many other initiatives.

Russia must end its occupation and fulfill the terms of the 2008 ceasefire. And as Putin continues his unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine, we continue to work shoulder to shoulder with Georgia and other partners to support the Ukrainian people and punish the Kremlin for its murderous actions. We appreciate the people of Georgia’s vocal support for their Ukrainian neighbors, as well as Georgia’s provision of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Yet, there is more we all can and should do.

Georgia’s people have shown over the years that they have the resilience needed to address challenges like the ones we face today. Georgia has demonstrated its ability to take on leadership roles in support of global security, including by serving side-by-side with U.S. and NATO troops as the largest non-NATO contributor to Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. As Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made clear when he visited Georgia last year, we honor the Georgian people’s commitment and sacrifice. The United States continues to firmly support Georgia’s NATO aspirations and efforts to further strengthen Georgia’s NATO interoperability.

Just as Georgian soldiers have exhibited leadership, bravery, and sacrifice for the common good, we have also seen civil society in Georgia passionately and fearlessly advocate for the steps required to achieve a democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and Euro-Atlantic future. We believe that Georgia will be more resilient in the face of Russian aggression if it enacts the reforms needed to strengthen its democratic institutions, rule of law, and human rights protections for all, and does so in an inclusive manner.

I am encouraged by the Georgian government’s pledge to make important electoral and judicial reforms, including at the recent December 2021 Summit for Democracy. These must be fulfilled if Georgia is to achieve its full potential. Based on the long history of my own country, I know it takes hard work, patience, and significant resources to form a more perfect union. But the United States will stand with the people of Georgia throughout the journey, as we have for the past decades.

Throughout our 30-year partnership, the United States has demonstrated our enduring commitment to the people of Georgia. But challenges remain – which is why the Biden Administration is committed to engaging the Georgian government and people.

As our partnership enters a fourth decade, I am confident the Georgian and American people will continue to deepen our friendship. As Secretary of State Blinken recently noted, the United States will continue to support the Georgian people in pursuing a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous Euro-Atlantic future.