It is a pleasure to be back in Georgia, in Tbilisi. I’m here to support the Slava Ukraini International Conference to show our support for Ukraine, but also for Georgia. President Biden believes that the contest between democracy and autocracy is really the definitive one of the 21st century. This is not about a great power struggle. This is about those countries that support the international order that has been written into the post-World War II architecture, the UN Charter.
In a couple of weeks, world leaders will be meeting in New York at the UN General Assembly, and one of our priorities is to support the UN Charter. We see it very much as part of that. There is no bigger example, or more flagrant example of the threat that authoritarianism poses, than Russia’s unprovoked, unconscionable, unjustified invasion of Ukraine. We are very much here in that spirit of support to the bravery of all Ukrainians. I met this afternoon with a number of Ukrainian refugees who have been through unspeakable horrors at the hand of Russia, Russian agents, and their proxies in the “filtration” process, and we feel it’s very important to hold Russia accountable. Of course, Georgians are not unfamiliar with what Ukrainians are going through with 20% of your territory occupied. I think it is very important to reinforce a couple of messages: One is of solidarity and steadfastness with the Georgian people in their aspirations of Euro-Atlantic integration. We are very much invested in this. We are a partner in this, and we stand ready to assist and to help you through this process, but to do so requires unity. Unity is the one thing that authoritarians fear. It is the one path to get Georgia to these aspirations, which your own people have expressed.
I also want to mention, and really commend our Embassy here. Ambassador Degnan and her team have engaged with a tremendous swath of civil society, business leaders, the government, parliament and opposition, to bring about and to foster that unity. From Washington, she has our full support. She and her team have done a remarkable job here. What we would call upon the Georgian government to do is build that unity. There’s a special role that government has to reach out and to build that unity, so don’t miss this opportunity. These opportunities do not come around often; we do not know if it will come around again. Take forward the 12 steps; take it forward, take it seriously, and make this a win for the people of Georgia.