Clinton on Georgia-US defense cooperation and NATO membership

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Batumi, Georgia, June 5, 2012

From Hillary Clinton, Department of State:  Reforming and modernizing Georgia’s defense establishment is also one of our shared priorities. Earlier today, I attended the commissioning of a coast guard vessel that the United States and Georgia refurbished together to help Georgia defend against threats from terrorism, drugs, and human trafficking.

We also discussed Georgia’s commitment to the ISAF operations in Afghanistan, including your pledge to help sustain the Afghan National Security Force after the 2014 transition. Georgian troops fight bravely alongside American forces in Afghanistan, and we greatly honor their courage and sacrifice. Georgia is already the largest per capita contributor of troops to our efforts in Afghanistan, and we thank you for sending a second battalion which will make you the largest non-NATO contributor.

We have also agreed this year on several new areas of defense cooperation. The United States will provide training and support for Georgian defense forces to better monitor your coasts and your skies. We will help upgrade Georgia’s utility helicopter fleet so it can more easily transport supplies and people throughout your country. We are also going to help Georgia give its officers the 21st century training they need for today’s changing missions. With these efforts, Georgia will be a stronger international partner with an improved capacity for self-defense. . . .

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Lika Beraia, TV company Imedi. I have a question to Madam Secretary of State. Following the Chicago summit, Russia expressed its negative position regarding intention of NATO, and in this context it’s (inaudible) negative, particularly with regard to Georgia. Some analysts say that Russia has the right to use so-called veto. Do you agree with this possibility?

SECRETARY CLINTON: As we stated at the Chicago NATO summit, the United States and all NATO allies support Georgia’s aspirations for NATO membership, and we reaffirmed the Bucharest decision and all subsequent decisions. We continue to work closely with Georgia both bilaterally and through the NATO-Georgia Commission to support the goals that Georgia has set for itself in its annual national program. And we remain committed to supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we strongly support the principle that all countries, including Georgia, should be free to choose their own alliances, including their security alliances.

Excerpts from press conference by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Batumi, Georgia. (photo: Getty)

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