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US-Georgia bilateral relations

Tuesday, June 1
Recently local and foreign media have speculated about the state of Georgia-US bilateral relations. The idea that the US might abandon Georgia as part of its reset policy with Russia has been discussed from different angles.

President Barack Obama’s statement that Georgia will not be an obstacle in developing US-Russia relations has proved controversial both here in Georgia and in the United States. Moscow has triumphantly welcomed the US President's statement, interpreting it as indirect support for its policy towards Georgia, whereas here it has aroused frustration and hysteria. Although the Georgian authorities and officials and many analysts still claim that nothing has changed in the strategic partnership between US and Georgia there is still a feeling of dissatisfaction.

The American media has published several articles criticising President Obama’s letter to US Congress asking it to ratify the nuclear energy agreement with Russia which was suspended by the Bush administration due to the Russian invasion of Georgia. Republican Senator John McCain has been the most active in attacking Obama’s statement that Georgia is no obstacle to resetting US-Russian relations. McCain said that by taking this approach will make not only Georgia but east European countries feel they have been abandoned by the US. Later David Kramer published a observation in The Washington Post saying that the US President’s remark could be understood by Moscow as a green light to its aggressive provocations against neighbouring countries. "Obama and other senior U.S. officials have repeatedly said they do not recognise a Russian "sphere of influence," but actions, or non-actions, speak louder than those words. Through its neglect of countries in the region except for Russia, the administration is ceding to Moscow exactly such a sphere," Kramer wrote.

According to Georgian analysts Obama's statement could be interpreted as a signal that Washington does not actually support Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty even verbally, as Russian troops are still occupying Georgian territory and this should pose an obstacle in relations. They also point out that during the Washington nuclear summit in April Obama met the Ukrainian, Armenian, Turkish and other Presidents but not Saakashvili. In fact he met him once, for seconds, in a corridor. In an interview with the Georgian Service of Voice of America David Kramer explained that Obama’s statement was designed to improve US-Russian relations and not meant to be open to any other interpretation either in Moscow or Tbilisi, but although officially both countries maintain there is a continuing strategic partnership between the two countries here in Georgia there is a feeling that the Obama administration's attitude to Georgia is not the same as the Bush administration's.

Georgians should realise that America has other priorities as well and does not support any particular political group in Georgia. Maybe the US administration also has the feeling that something has changed, as recently several demonstrative steps have been taken to show the Georgian people and the world that the US supports Georgia. On May 26 President Obama congratulated Saakashvili on Independence Day by sending a letter, Hillary Clinton also congratulated it and Philip Gordon made a special statement supporting Georgia. Georgian officials interpret all of this favourably. Georgia’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze thinks that relations between Georgia and the US are exemplary.

As an independent country Georgia has the right to choose the partners it prefers and currently Georgia is Western oriented, trying its best to move further in this direction. All the ordinary Georgian wants is for the West not to let the country down.