In the lengthy address celebrating the 30th anniversary of U.S.-Georgian diplomatic relations, Ambassador Kelly Degnan highlighted that “we face a resurgent, revanchist Russia, intent on reinstating its empire through establishing a privileged sphere of influence.”
Noting that Russia has “clearly demonstrated its lack of respect for Georgia and other countries’ sovereignty,” the U.S diplomat asserted that it is the only country in Europe occupying the territory of sovereign nations and massing troops on the border of its neighbor.
She stressed that Georgia has repeatedly faced Russian aggression over the centuries: “Dating back to 1801 when Russia annexed the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti in violation of the 1783 Treaty of Georgievsk, then again in 1921 when the Kremlin invaded and occupied the Democratic Republic of Georgia in violation of the Treaty of Moscow, and of course, more recently in 2008.”
It was Russia that crushed Georgia’s first Republic in 1921, desecrated Georgia’s churches, and unsuccessfully tried to smother the Georgian language,” the Ambassador highlighted.
The diplomat said “in stark contrast to Russia’s disrespect for Georgia’s culture, faith, language, and traditions, the United States, Europe, and Georgia have a common vision of shared prosperity, freedom, and dignity based on mutual respect.”
In her speech, Ambassador Degnan also underscored that as a result of 30 years of cooperation the U.S. has earned the confidence and friendship of the Georgian people. Meanwhile, Ambassador Degnan reaffirmed that in Washington there is a “strong interest and bipartisan support” for the common goals of the U.S. and Georgia. “The United States has a huge interest and desire to see Georgia fulfill its trans-Atlantic destiny.”
The Ambassador highlighted that over the past thirty years “Georgians have seen Soviet oppression of the language and Church collapse. You’ve seen thieves-in-law [crime bosses] terrorize average citizens and send the country into lawlessness. You’ve seen war, fighting, political turmoil, revolution, but also the peaceful transfer of power. That is real progress.”
Throughout these turbulent times, Ambassador Degnan asserted, the U.S. has supported the people of Georgia and will continue to do so in the coming years “to support our shared values and strengthen the institutions necessary to protect them.”
In her remarks, the diplomat also underlined the U.S. efforts to modernize Georgian Defense Forces, Coast Guard and Border Police, pointing out that it has invested over USD 1.5 billion “in helping Georgia strengthen its resiliency, defend its borders, and support its territorial integrity.”
Against this backdrop, Ambassador Degnan said Georgia plays an important role in ensuring Black Sea security, contributing to global stability and curbing the flow of illegal weapons drugs and other hazardous materials. Besides, she highlighted that Georgia and the U.S. have proven very effective at countering regional and global threats and challenges as strategic partners, and have worked together diplomatically at the UN and OSCE, among others.
“The United States understands that our global network of alliances and partnerships is our greatest strength, and Georgia is a valued part of that network,” the Ambassador stated, adding “that is why the United States supports Georgia’s membership aspiration toward NATO, where Allies work together to promote peace and our collective security.”
But Ambassador Degnan also stressed that U.S.-Georgian cooperation is broader than security cooperation, highlighting U.S. efforts to stimulate Georgia’s economy, diversify its energy supply, improve the education system and strengthen its democratic institutions.