In speech, Biden pledges US support for Georgia
Warns against using force to reclaim regions
TBILISI, Georgia - A year after Georgia’s disastrous war with Russia, Vice President Joe Biden assured the small country yesterday that the United States stands behind the nation in its continuing conflicts with the region’s dominant power.
But his message was tempered by tough love.
While saying Russia should withdraw its forces from two separatist Georgian regions, Biden also said Georgia should abandon any hopes of reclaiming those regions by force.
Further, he assured that the United States would stand behind Georgia’s sovereignty, but Georgia must still strive to build a democratic society, six years after its peaceful Rose Revolution ousted a Soviet-era leader and brought President Mikhail Saakashvili to power.
“Your Rose Revolution will only be complete when government is transparent, accountable, and fully participatory, when issues are debated inside this chamber, not only out on the streets,’’ Biden told federal and local officials from across the former Soviet republic.
Georgia’s opposition has held street protests since April to call for Saakashvili to step down, saying he has grown increasingly authoritarian.
Few nations are more pro-American than Georgia, and the audience listened in rapt silence.
But Biden won several standing ovations when he criticized Russia’s actions during and after its August 2008 war with Georgia. He pledged that the Obama administration would not abandon Georgia even as it sought to mend relations with Moscow, badly damaged by the Russian-Georgian war.
After the outbreak of fighting in the separatist-held territory of South Ossetia, Russia sent tanks, troops, and warplanes deep into Georgia that August.