At a time when “Russia has been going backwards, not forwards in democratic reforms,” it is vital that the United States and Europe work together to bolster emerging democracies like Georgia.

This was the message of Senators Lindsay Grahem (R-SC) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) at the Capitol Hill launch of  “Georgia in the West: A Policy Road Map to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Future,” a new report of the Atlantic Council’s Georgia Task Force, which they co-chaired. The report advocates that the United States, Europe, and Georgia take the following measures :

  • Maintain democracy support at the core of US and European assistance: US and European assistance to Georgia should target electoral reform, support for civil society and free media, political party development, and parliamentary strengthening.
  • Hold Russia accountable for its occupation and protect Georgia’s territorial integrity: The United States should institutionalize declared policy denying Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognition as independent states. US and European officials should hold Russia to account for its legal obligations, while pushing for the internationalization of ethnic Georgian-populated areas in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and propose a neutral international security presence in the occupied territories. The EU should push Russia to allow the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to fulfill its mandate across the occupation line and invite US.
  • Advance Georgia’s NATO aspirations: Transatlantic allies should agree that the NATO-Georgia Commission is Georgia’s path to membership and adopt a package of intensified cooperation at a first-ever NATO-Georgia summit in Chicago in conjunction with the NATO Summit next May. NATO allies should respond to Georgia’s nonuse-of-force pledge by helping Georgia develop defense plans and purchase defensive arms.
  • Support Georgia at the World Trade Organization (WTO): US and European officials should facilitate an agreement, which could include international customs monitors on Russia’s border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to allow Georgian support for Russia’s WTO membership.
  • Deliver on the Eastern Partnership (EaP): The EU should reinforce its stated EaP policy of “more for more,” by proposing to Georgia a road map for visa-free travel, and opening negotiations with Georgia on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement this year.
  • Strengthen democratic measures: The Georgian government and civil society should work together to undertake measures to empower the parliament, strengthen judicial independence, and ensure that the electoral reform process apportions electoral districts on the basis of one person, one vote. The government should deter interference in opposition financing and introduce direct mayoral elections nationwide.
  • Facilitate investments and job creation: Georgia’s government should avail itself of international assistance, including the next Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, to strengthen its human resources and tackle unemployment and underemployment. It should make investments that reinforce its role as an energy-transit country, strengthen its investment climate by resolving tax disputes quickly, and facilitate commerce and people-to-people ties across the lines of occupation.

Despite the report’s emphasis on the dangers of Russia’s domination of the region’s energy supplies, the Task Force does not advocate a reversal of the “reset” policy of the Obama administration. Shaheen emphasized that “This isn’t a zero sum game” because “we have to cooperate with Georgia and Russia.” Atlantic Council executive vice president Damon Wilson added, “Policies toward Georgia shouldn’t be looked at as a function of policies toward Russia.”

Still, Graham argues, “We should embrace the vision of a united, democratic Georgia embedded in the institutions of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.” Kurt Volker, a former US ambassador to NATO and a senior advisor at the Atlantic Council, stated that “Georgia reminds us that we haven’t finished the job. There are countries still left in Europe that need help.”

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

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