The Atlantic Council of the United States
Georgia and the West: A Policy Road Map to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Future
Welcome and Moderator:
Executive Vice President,
The Atlantic Council
Frances G. Burwell,
The Atlantic Council
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC),
Atlantic Council Georgia Task Force
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH),
Atlantic Council Georgia Task Force
Location: Washington, D.C.
Date: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Federal News Service
DAMON WILSON: Good morning, everyone. If I could get your attention, I think we’ll go ahead and start. I want to welcome you here today to the Senate Dirksen offices. My name’s Damon Wilson. I’m the executive vice president at the Atlantic Council.
I’m joined today by my colleague, vice president for trans-Atlantic relations at the Atlantic Council, Fran Burwell, as well as our rapporteur of the Georgia Task Force, Cynthia Romero, and some of our task force members that are with us today – Ken Wollack, the head of NDI, National Democratic Institute, Kurt Volker, former ambassador to NATO and now at BGR, and senior advisor at the Atlantic Council.
I want to welcome you to this event, “Georgia and the West: A Policy Road Map to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Future.” This has been a task force that the Atlantic Council has run over the past year. It’s been chaired by two terrific senators, Senator Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire and Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina.
They will be joining us today during the course of this event, so if you’ll bear with us, as they come in, I will stop talking and allow them to start talking. So bear with us, with the flexibility, depending on the flow of their schedules.
I wanted to start this off today by helping to set the scene, provide a little bit of context and some key conclusions of this task force report. The road from a failed, corrupt post-Soviet state to an independent, democratic Georgia that’s embedded in the European community and the institutions of that community – NATO and the European Union – this would never have been an easy or direct path.
But too many today are questioning whether that path is even feasible. The Atlantic Council’s task force, the members of our task force – a bipartisan group of Democrats, Republicans – believe strongly that it’s not only a preferable outcome for Georgia and the West, but that it is viable.
In this report that you have that we are just releasing today, we argue for the vision of a democratic Georgia that’s embedded in NATO, embedded in the European Union, and a policy to back up that vision – a clear policy road map to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future, if you will. In short, U.S. and Europe – U.S. and European policy toward Georgia requires a new sense of common purpose, a new sense of clarity, as Georgia itself intensifies its – intensifies its own reforms to meet the high standards that it’s set for itself.
That’s our core message of this report, this task force. We formed this task force one year ago because we were concerned about the lack of clarity in policy, concerned about simmering differences between the United States and Europe, and within Europe. We were concerned about the normalization of the status quo of occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, concerned that this was becoming a creeping annexation as Russia builds up its military presence and has sought to destabilize Georgia.
And we’ve been concerned about this as the backdrop as Georgia faces two critical tests, I think, politically – the 2012 parliamentary elections and 2013 presidential contest. So the purpose of this effort was to assess and reinvigorate policy towards Georgia, to forge a bipartisan approach that advances Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration, and to lay out a road map for Georgia’s democratization and its integration. We have put together a set of recommendations that, hopefully, the government of Georgia can embrace, the opposition and civil society can embrace.
So I want to take a moment to thank our co-chairs for agreeing to lead this effort. When we kicked this off, Senator Hagel, the chairman of the Atlantic Council – he announced the launch of this task force by saying that we have Senator Graham and Senator Shaheen, leaders that are respected and serious in the Senate. They will provide incredible and important leadership for this effort.
We’re delighted to have you join us, Senator Graham. I’m going to turn to my colleague and turn over the floor.
FRAN BURWELL: Let me just say, briefly, to welcome Senator Graham and to say what an honor it’s been to have the two senators as our co-chairs. I think Senator Graham does not need much of an introduction, but I just want to mention that he’s a former active-duty Air Force officer, a lawyer, and he now continues to serve with the reserves, including tours in, I believe, both Afghanistan and Iraq.
He served South Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives starting in 1994, until elected to the Senate in 2002. He’s a member of the appropriations, armed services, budget, and judiciary committees. So thank you very much.
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you. Up here is OK? Good morning. I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help. (Laughter.) They even laugh in Georgia – (inaudible) – they like to hear the joke (all over the world ?). The Congress is pretty dysfunctional now, so it’s good to have some bipartisanship; Senator Shaheen has been a great ally in this endeavor to talk about our friends in Georgia.
Now I have Georgia on my border and Georgia on my mind. (Laughter.) Mr. Ambassador, good to see you again. This Atlantic Council – to the Atlantic Council, thank you. This is a very in-depth analysis of the challenges facing Georgia within and without. It is very important for me that Georgia turn out well.
It is one of the centerpieces of this new movement in that part of the world that preceded the Arab Spring, where people from the former Soviet Union had a chance to start over. They’ve embraced this chance to start over with a new way of living that I think will be beneficial to the world at large. And success in Georgia, I think, validates what is going on in the Arab world, in many ways – people who come out of totalitarian regimes and have a chance at freedom.
And a couple of takeaways on this report, at its heart: Starting over is hard, particularly when most people in the country of Georgia have only known one system. You’re afraid to talk openly about your feelings, the command and control economy, the police state, for lack of a better word. Trying to create a democracy out of that is very difficult, but I am very pleased at the progress. Many challenges await the country of Georgia.
This report is based on three questions. What can the United States do? What can Georgia do? And what can Europe do to make this a success story? On the United States front, we have the ability to supplement Georgia’s defense, and we should. I’m a big believer in providing defense capabilities to the people of Georgia as a stabilizing event, not destabilizing.
And the threats that the country of Georgia faces are real. You have boundary disputes; you have territorial disputes. You’ve had recent engagement with Russia. And it is my hope that the United States will provide military assistance in a responsible way. So that’s one thing we can do, help Georgia defend herself.
The other thing that we can do is provide economic assistance, technical assistance, to the people of Georgia as they develop their institutions, and to make sure that the 200-something years of the experiment here in democracy in the United States, that we can share our mistakes as well as our successes, and be more engaged in strengthening civil society – and just basically, bolster the concept of free and open media and provide technical expertise that this country (can be capable?) of doing.
We can support Georgia at the WTO. We can make sure the Russians know we’re watching and that the international community, led by the United States, is going to expect better behavior from the Russians, and that you resolve disputes over territory not with force of arms but through negotiations and the rule of law.
We can, as I said, improve defense capability, support economic development, launch a U.S.-Georgia free trade agreement – that would be very helpful. We can urge our European allies to be more embracing of EU admission and NATO admission.
Now, what does Georgia need to do? Empower the parliament, strengthen judicial independence, facilitate a free media, support a competitive electoral environment. And we see progress. They have challenges. The power of the personality of the president is real. He’s supported widely throughout the country. But democracy is not based on personality; it’s based on systems. So my hope is that the Georgian people will really focus on systems that are sustainable beyond people’s personality.
The great legacy of this president will be to leave behind an independent judiciary, to have at least two parties who will be competing for the hearts and minds of the Georgian people, and to have a free media that can openly criticize the government and put on the table ideas that make everybody, and democracy, stronger.
The economic growth – energy opportunities for the people are unlimited, and we would like to be helpful in that regard, creating an economy where Georgia can share in the abundant resources of the region. (You’ve got?) transportation hubs for energy access from other nations, a really exciting opportunity on the economic front.
So the Atlantic Council, I think, has done a very good job of giving us a road map. What the United States can do – very healthy suggestions on the defense side, on the economic side. What we can be doing to help Europe embrace Georgia in a more open way – I think the Atlantic Council report has exposed problems inside of Georgia that will be challenges to the political infrastructure and to the people of Georgia.
The good news for us is that there’s wide acceptance from all sectors of Georgian society to embrace the West, and we need to build upon that and not let that be lost over time. So the report is very comprehensive, and it’s a good road map for all of us.
Now, on the European side – this dependence on energy supplies from Russia is real. I want a win-win situation with Russia. I want Europe to have a win-win situation. But our Russian friends have sometimes used energy in a very unhealthy way, and I think they have a view of reconstructing the old Soviet Union in a new way that we need to challenge.
You know, Prime Minister Putin, who will probably be president again, I don’t think has hit the reset button quite yet. It’s very unnerving what you hear coming out of Russia. They’re going backwards, not forwards, when it comes to democratic reforms. And they did try and – (inaudible) – in an unhealthy way, and we need to let the Russian people know, and their government, that you’re welcome to be part of the world community; you just have to abide by certain norms.
So at the end of the day, I think the European community needs to reach out and reward Georgia as she makes the political reforms necessary to become a member of NATO, European Union. We need – just need to – (inaudible) – that if you do certain things to improve the institutions in Georgia and embrace democratic ideals, there will be a pathway forward.
You desire to associate with the European Union, you desire to be a member of NATO, and you should be rewarded, in my view, not only by the United States but by the European community. And they should send a very clear signal – the Europeans should – to the people of Georgia that they’re welcome.
You have to have – certain things you have to do with your military, certain institutional reforms you have to make. But the idea that we will embrace you in the West should be very much in the forefront of everyone’s thinking. And if the Russians try to chill out that thinking, we should push back.
My hope is that as we recreate, out of the ashes of the Soviet Union, democracies – that over time, Russia – I think the best thing that could happen to the country is to be surrounded by people who believe in the rule of law, who believe in free and fair elections, who believe in an independent judiciary. And the only way you can possibly be threatened by these institutions is if you don’t believe in that concept yourself.
So being surrounded by emerging democracies is welcome news, if I was living in Russia. Because in Israel, you’re not surrounded by democracies. Iraq is not surrounded by friends – you’ve got Syria and Iran. So when our Russian friends try to intimidate democratic development in Georgia and other places, we in the West need to push back.
So this report by the Atlantic Council, I think, is the most extensive recent pathway forward in terms of the future of the country of Georgia vis-à-vis Europe, the United States, and the world at large that we could have hoped for. Senator Shaheen has been a great ally. She has a big heart for the people in the country of Georgia. And together, we will continue to work through the Congress, lobbying our allies to provide the military support Georgia needs, the economic assistance.
And we will be friends in this new partnership. Again, the Arab Spring is a continuation of what started in Georgia and other places. We need to embrace it, and not to forget that it all started when the Soviet Union collapsed. And if Georgia is a success story, it will breed more democratic efforts throughout the world.
If for some reason Georgia fails – because of intimidation from a big neighbor, from a collapse within – it will be a very sad day. Let’s not let that sad day happen. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MS. BURWELL: Thank you very much, Senator. It’s now my honor to introduce Senator Jeanne Shaheen. She was the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire, and then the first woman elected to the Senate from her state. She chairs the Europe subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is also a member of energy and natural resources, armed services, and small business.
She also presided over the first hearing on Georgia after the 2008 war. And let me say that it’s been a real honor to have, as our co-chairs, these two senators who both have reputations for working across the aisle. That’s not always common, these days, and we very much appreciate it. And we are delighted to include an example of that by including the text of their joint resolution on Georgia as an annex in the report. So let me turn the floor over to you.
SENATOR JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Thank you. I will take the podium and then come back down. I assume you’ll all have some questions at the end.
I am delighted to be here with all of you for the release of this report that has been done by the Atlantic Council’s Georgia Task Force. I’m happy to have been able to work with Lindsey Graham as the co-chair on this report. As you point out, there’s not enough bipartisanship going on in the Senate and the House today, and so I think wherever we have examples, we should tout those.
I want to congratulate Damon Wilson and Fran Burwell, and everyone at the Atlantic Council, for all of the good work that has been done in producing this report. It really has been an impressive team that they’ve put together, and they’ve looked very comprehensively at what we should be thinking about as we look at the future of Georgia.
As Dr. Burwell explained, Senator Graham and I earlier this year passed a resolution on Georgia’s territorial integrity in the Senate. And I think that effort, like this report and like the work of the Atlantic Council, has helped to keep this issue in the forefront as people are thinking about the foreign policy issues that the country and the world are facing.
I think one of the goals of the task force that’s been working on this issue has been to try and build a strong bipartisan consensus on how we can support policies, moving forward, for Georgia – and to refocus the efforts of the Euro-Atlantic community on Georgia’s integration into that community, and to hopefully raise questions – not just for us in Washington, but also for Tbilisi and for Brussels.
And I think it’s important to point out, as I’m sure Senator Graham did, that the report really presses all three governments to think about how we should support Georgia moving forward.
I know you’re all here because you understand why Georgia’s important, but I think it’s worth repeating that, as Senator Graham said, this is a young democracy in a very difficult neighborhood. Success for democracy there is going to be very important. It’s important for American security interests. It’s strategically located; it’s a critical supplier of energy in an important region of the world, in the South Caucasus.
It’s also been a strong, contributing member of NATO, and has been very helpful to the NATO effort in Afghanistan. But again, as I think Senator Graham said very eloquently, Georgia’s about more than just its geopolitical location in the world and its importance to security. It’s really about democracy, and whether democracy and the experiment that’s going on in Georgia is going to succeed in that part of the world.
If Georgia’s experiment in democracy succeeds, it will send a very important message to the rest of the world. And the country has made some very important strides in moving towards democracy, but as the task force report points out, there’s still some ways to go.
The report points out that our continuing commitment to advancing Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and realizing a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace, is critical. The Georgia Task Force report provides momentum and energy for further discussions on what we should do there.
Now, one critical concern, as we all know, has been how Russia has behaved in Georgia. As you know, it’s been three years since the South Caucasus saw a war break out between Russia and Georgia. Russian troops still occupy Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And we continue, in the United States, to call on Russia to end its occupation of Georgia’s territory, to withdraw its forces, and to abide by its other commitments under the 2008 ceasefire.
In addition, we believe that Georgia’s future actually lies in their ability to take on important domestic reforms at home. Georgia’s parliamentary elections in 2012, and its presidential election in 2013, are going to be key indicators of the success and durability of Georgia’s democracy. This will be the first time an independent Georgia has been able – if it’s successful – to transfer power from one peaceful, democratic regime to another, a critical milestone as we move towards democracy.
NATO support for Georgia will continue to be critical. As many of you know, at the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, NATO members agreed that Georgia would become an alliance member. However, there’s been no road map laid out for how that should happen.
No clear incentive for membership has been laid down. The task force report views the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago as an important opportunity for U.S. officials to advance and clarify NATO’s commitment to Georgia’s full integration by presenting a path forward for Georgia.
So there is clearly a lot to be done. And responsibility lies within Georgia itself, within the EU and NATO, to look at how they can support Georgia’s integration into Europe, and with the United States in ways that we can be supportive. I think the good news is we’re seeing progress.
The report indicates some critical recommendations for a path forward. Now the challenge is whether we’re all going to be able to follow up on those recommendations and move forward in a way that continues to promote democracy in Georgia. So thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MR. WILSON: Thank you very much, Senator Shaheen. I want to thank Senator Shaheen and Senator Graham for chairing this task force and for helping to kick off our launch today.
When we began this project, I was accused by some of parochialism in the selection of our senators as task force chairs. People that know me know that my father’s side of the family – we have a family farm on the Vermont-New Hampshire border, and so I’ve followed Senator Shaheen’s career very closely through New Hampshire politics. But I grew up, and my home state is South Carolina.
And so despite the accusations of parochialism, we turned to these two senators for the reasons you’ve seen today – because they care about, they think about, and they’ve done a tremendous amount of work on the issue of Georgia.
Senator Shaheen, your position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairing the Europe subcommittee, has put Georgia on the Senate’s agenda, very critically calling the first hearing in the wake of the 2008 war. Senator Graham has been one of the most active members of the Senate from his perch on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and has been a frequent visitor to Georgia itself.
I think with your indulgence, we may have a few minutes for questions and comments from the audience for Senator Shaheen, before she has to move on. And then Fran and I will continue to walk through some of the more specifics of the task force report. For those of you who would like to ask a question, please catch my eye. And then if you could move to the back, there is a microphone in the back, standing where one of our colleagues is.
Please, who would like to help kick us off? Please, if you could take the microphone at the back, that would be helpful. And introduce yourself, so we are aware.
SEN. SHAHEEN: And can you also just tell us who – what organization you are with?
Q: Yes. My name’s Josh Kucera. I’m a freelance journalist on international affairs, no organization. But there are several recommendations in your report that cross a variety of red lines with Russia – selling arms to Georgia, positioning U.S. forces in Georgia, NATO expansion. And I know that this effectively amounts to a kind of blackmail (by Russia’s standards?). If you do these things, then it’s going to spoil our relations.
Michael McFaul, the ambassador-nominee to Russia, just testified yesterday that Russia has allowed 1,500 overflights to Afghanistan. The cooperation with Russia is getting more important as relations with Pakistan get more difficult, in getting forces to – cargo, and so on – to Afghanistan. My question is, you know, could you explain why the recommendations in your report would give us more strategic benefits than the strategic damage that this would cause with Russia?
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, I’m sure that both Damon and Dr. Burwell can comment on this, but I don’t think we should look at this as a zero-sum game. Obviously, we have a reset policy with Russia. We’re moving forward there on a variety of issues that are of concern to the United States, where we think we can cooperate.
We also have a variety of interests in Georgia, and we need to look at ways in which we can support Georgia’s emergence as a strong democracy in that part of the world. And we can – we are already helping them, in terms of providing training and assistance with respect to their military services. And so I think we need to look at our interest in Georgia as a separate issue.
MR. WILSON: I might just add to that, if I may, as we put this in context. I think part of what the task force was trying to argue is that the United States and Europe need clarity in their policy towards Georgia. Policy towards Georgia shouldn’t be a function of policy towards Russia.
And in that context, that’s why we went back to first principles about what is the vision that underpins the policy direction we want to move for Georgia. And that’s a Georgia that’s embedded in the institutions of Europe, that’s a democratic, independent, sovereign Georgia that becomes a member of NATO and the European Union. And it’s from that premise that we follow through on the policy conclusions that we can get into a little bit more in detail, as we walk through the specifics after this. Can I turn to others for – please, the mic.
Q: Hi, thank you. (Inaudible) – the Heritage Foundation. If the United States is going to, perhaps, cross over this, quote-unquote, red line with Russia, as the previous questioner mentioned, I think it’s going to require a sustained level of support from the American people. What’s the, sort of, best case for presenting the need for America to support Georgia and its move towards the West that we can make to the American people in this current political cycle, and also in the context of the budget debates?
SEN. SHAHEEN: Usually, when I’m out in New Hampshire these days, I’m talking about jobs and not talking about Georgia. (Laughter.) But one of the things that people in New Hampshire are concerned about is what’s happening in the rest of the world.
And they have an interest in seeing that democracy is promoted around the world, and that we’re supporting those emerging democracies to continue to be strong. Because if we can ensure that – if we can help, so that there’s not another conflict in this part of the world, so that there are not resources that are being used by us and by others of our allies to address those conflicts, then the people of New Hampshire and the rest of the country all benefit from that.
So I think Americans understand that it’s important for us to support those countries that would like to become independent, that would like to give their people a say in how the country is governed. I mean, just witness the reaction to the Arab Spring here in America, and how enthusiastic people in America have been to see people throughout the Middle East having a say – or wanting to have a say in governing themselves.
MR. WILSON: Please, to the mic. If you can go to the – use the mic in the back, please, all the way at the back.
Q: Thank you very much. I’m – (inaudible) – I work for Voice of America. My question is, as Georgia – (inaudible) – is independent and a democratic country, one of the challenges would be the territorial integrity to preserve. So what the United States can do, and how it would be reflected in its policies in the future to help Georgia?
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, one of the things that is going on right now – and in fact, Dr. McFaul talked about that yesterday when he was talking – there was a question about Russia’s accession into the WTO, and how their continued support for occupation – their continued occupation of territory in Georgia is going to affect that.
And one of the things he talked about was the efforts with the Swiss to try and mediate, with the international community, more monitors to protect the border areas, to make sure that there’s freedom of movement between those territories and the rest of Georgia, and that peace is maintained there. And I think our support for those kinds of negotiations are important.
Q: Thank you.
SEN. SHAHEEN: You all must want to add.
MR. WILSON: I might just pick up on that point, because the Senate resolution that Senator Shaheen and Senator Graham sponsored is actually not just a rhetorical tool. But I think it’s an important part of answering the question that you just asked. We may take it to grant – we may take it for granted today that Western nations would never recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and I think that’s true.
But if you think about a long-term strategy to promote their independence, or even, potentially, annexation, part of the things that the Senate resolution does – the clarity in Western policy today – it helps very much to think – establish resolve over the long term, and put sufficient markers in place right now, today, in terms of Western policy in support of Georgian territorial integrity.
We picked up this point in our report because many of us were very aware, during the Cold War, of much of the cynicism that was – that U.S. policy towards the Baltic States received, the U.S. policy during the Cold War that did not recognize the Soviet Union’s incorporation of the Baltic States.
And many thought that was a quaint, outdated policy. But it was a policy that was quite important to help, in terms – set some of the long-term markers, in terms of our principles there.
And I think in many respects, the Senate resolution is a key element of putting in place the building blocks that ensure that we’ve done what we need to do to protect Georgia’s sovereignty, its territorial integrity – have a long-term strategy, even though while in the near term – I think coupling a long-term strategy with a short-term strategy to try to advance more clearly the goal of their integration into Europe, into NATO. Do you want to add to that at all?
MS. BURWELL: I would just say that, in terms of some of the red lines with Russia, I think we need to keep in mind that, for example, the overflights towards Afghanistan are in Russia’s interests as well. So we need to be clear about when Russia is doing it as a favor to us and when it is in their interest. And I would argue that most of what they are – (inaudible) – in their interest.
I think also that, in terms of figuring out how we treat Abkhazia and South – especially Abkhazia, also South Ossetia – the Sochi Olympics, Winter Olympics offers both a big challenge and an opportunity. There may be occasions of erosion of those territories’ coherence with Georgia, in terms of Russian construction and things like that.
And we need to be alert to that. We’re not suggesting boycotts or anything like that. But we need to be alert to those things, and we need to maybe see if this can be an opportunity to move the dialogue forward, to find some kind of (way forward?).
SEN. SHAHEEN: But the other reality is, if people in those territories see that Georgia is a functioning democracy, that their economy is strong, that people have – that there’s a rule of law – that human rights are respected, that there’s a free press, and they don’t see that in Russia, then they’re going to have an interest in being part of Georgia, not in being – continued to be occupied by Russia.
So seeing the changes internally within Georgia is the best argument for the country to maintain its sovereignty and its territorial integrity. And on that note, I have to leave. Thank you all very much.
MR. WILSON: Thank you. (Applause.) Why don’t we – I’m going to ask our questioner. We’ll pick that back up – (cross talk, inaudible) –
MR. WILSON: That’s OK. All right, sir, why don’t we take your question – sir, excuse me. I’m going to pick up our conversation, then come back to questions. So after we lay some out – so if you could just hold your question for a moment, that would be terrific. Thank you.
So we had a chance for the two senators to set the scene, set the stage for the purpose of this report, some of the key highlights. You’ve seen the impetus for their involvement. Fran and I would like to take a few minutes to, sort of, walk through a little bit more of the specifics of what the task force has done. And with that – and thank you, sir, for your indulgence – we’ll then pick up some more questions and a conversation.
I want to start, basically, with the premise, and then get into the three pillars of how we talk about this policy issue. As you heard from Senator Graham, we very intentionally approached the issue of Georgia from three perspectives. To get this right, American policy, European policy, and Georgian actions have to be in sync, mutually reinforcing, and moving towards the same goal.
And I think our concern at the beginning of this was in the aftermath of the 2008 war, U.S. and European policy was at best unclear, and at worst divided, on what we were ultimately willing to offer a democratic Georgia. So we’ve argued that we need clarity on first principles. We need clarity on first principles that underpin our policy.
So as we’ve talked about, that’s why a long-term horizon is required to think about achieving the goal of a Georgia that is fully embedded in the West and its institutions, and united with its occupied territories. But to get to that long-term vision, you need a coherent action strategy today that advances the integration aspect of this more rapidly.
And that means that Western policy today needs to be clear about laying out a real – laying the groundwork for the long-term on the occupied territories, while aiming to advance Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration in the near term, regardless of what’s happening in Russia. And that’s why we’ve advocated what we call here a policy of “hold close, push hard.” It’s a policy in which we unequivocally embrace the vision of a Georgia in NATO and in the European Union, and we in turn press Georgia to actually meet the high standards that it’s set for itself.
In the process of integration of Central and Eastern Europe, engagement carried the promise of membership. It incentivized reforms. And while there are certain challenging aspects to the integration we’re talking about with Georgia, that formula is not broken. We need to have that formula on offer.
So we’ve proposed a process of going on offense, if you will, diplomatically – going on offense to prevent what we fear could be a creeping annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and to do this against the background of 2012, 2013, as very important markers of the first democratic transfer of power.
So this report lays out the road map – incentives, benchmarks, conditionality – but also a clear goal. And we argue that to get this right, U.S. leadership on policy is key. The U.S. has to lead if this is to fall in place. But it can’t work without Europe doing its fair share, because Europe has a lot of the tangible benefits that come to the citizens of Georgia as Georgia becomes European. And all of this has to be fueled and backed up by Georgia itself moving forward with its aspirations – its reforms.
We took a task force trip to Georgia as part of this process. And we came back with some striking conclusions from that trip. One was the depth of popular support in Georgia for this vision of the country embedded in the West. It crossed all political lines. It crossed civil society, those in government and out – an incredible track record of reform that has made astonishing progress on ridding Georgia of corruption, facilitating real economic growth, but has also, at the same time, centralized power.
We also took away a sense that the security dominates everything. The question of insecurity impacts politics and impacts economics. We took away the sense that what the U.S. both says and does has a tremendous impact in the country, and that the lack of clarity, the lack of policy from the European Union, the ambiguity coming from the European Union, in our view, was a real problem in Georgia.
So against that backdrop let me quickly walk through our – some of our recommendations on Georgia’s policy and U.S. policy, and then we’ll to turn to Fran on Europe.
So our argument is that with great expectations comes great responsibility on the part of Georgia as part of this process. It will earn its place in Europe and the community through the transformation it does at – it has at home. I think part of what we recognize is, yes, Georgia’s contribution to alliance operations shows that Georgia’s already acting as if it were an ally. It’s playing a critical role as an energy transit – that’s (from ?) Central Asia and Europe. But our recommendations come across several categories.
First, as you heard from Senator Graham, bolstering Georgia’s democratic institutions; empowering the parliament, particularly as it moves to Kutaisi; strengthening judicial independence – that is – (inaudible) – jury by trial is introduced in Georgia; ensuring that civil society and the political opposition – political opposition participates in the electoral and democratic process rather than boycotting that process; facilitating free media including –(inaudible) – and – (inaudible) – media ownership; and supporting this competitive electoral environment by giving greater buy-in on electoral reform, paying attention to protecting opposition – opportunities for opposition financing – and introducing direct mayoral elections as is done in Tbilisi nationwide, but at the same time, a real policy of protecting Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Georgia’s policy of fostering regional integration – regional integration and cooperation will only strengthen Georgia’s drive toward Euro-Atlantic – (inaudible) – challenge that, but at the same time managing with sensitivity some of the delicate relationships in the region – (inaudible) – for example, with Belarus or Iran; facilitating humanitarian aid and building bridges across the occupation lines as part of the engagement strategy of Georgia as a critical element, getting the (dynamic ?) right; coordinating WTO policy without Western allies, and we’ll come back to that.
And fostering also sustainable economic growth in Georgia is another pillar of this. Reinforcing – encouraging investments that reinforce this role as an energy-transit country in hydropower generation, support for the EU gas pipeline; focusing on job creation, unemployment and underemployment is a tremendous challenge in Georgia, particularly (in ?) reform of the agricultural sector; and strengthen the investment climate, responding quickly to tax abuse cases, approving – (inaudible) – and such.
Against that backdrop, we think the context in which Georgia is acting is most important. And this is where U.S. policy comes into play. We’ve already talked about the democracy assistance, and I think, as one of the questions alluded, this isn’t really about more money in Georgia. I think retaining the idea of democracy assistance at the core – at the core of foreign aid is right – it makes sense – and supporting clear steps on electoral reforms, support for civil society and bolstering the free media.
But also more aggressive policy of protecting Georgia’s territorial integrity – I think in this aspect we bargained for holding Russia accountable for its occupation. This is where we might see policy – U.S. policy enshrined either via executive order, a report to Congress, policy statements from the administration – something that formally labels Russia’s presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as occupation – and institutionalized U.S. policy denying Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognition as independent states.
But also holding Russia account to its legal obligations: protection of minorities; fundamental right of safe return for IDPs; and pushing more coherently for an internationalization, particularly of those areas that were formerly ethnic populated – Georgian-ethnic populated areas – Gali – (inaudible) – Akhalgori.
We also have started an argument for going on offense diplomatically and put forward some ideas. Part of our concern is, in the diplomatic sphere, it’s very easy to roll into a very status-quo approach to the Geneva talks; a response to Russian actions and proposals. And our concern is that we need to go on offense and challenge that. So we argued for posting an international security presence in the occupied territories. This means actually envisioning – laying out a pure vision for what security in Abkhazia and South Ossetia would look like if there was full implementation of a cease-fire agreement. That’s what our expectation of the agreement should be – (the layout of that means ?).
We’ve argued for support of Georgia in the context of the World Trade Organization. And then it addresses – we should address Georgia’s concerns, urge Russia to agree to an international regime in which we would have customs monitoring and – points on the border crossings between the international border of Russia and Georgia.
Also improving security and defense cooperation – in this context the upcoming NATO summit at the – in Chicago in May, 2012, is an important marker. We think that that summit needs to be used to concretely advance Georgia’s aspirations by bringing – agreeing to a more intensified package of cooperation, making it clear that the NATO Georgia Commission is Georgia’s path to membership in the alliance; that it – actually the Annual National Program is the mechanism for which Georgia can achieve membership; and hosting the first-ever – (inaudible) – summit of the NATO Georgia Commission in Chicago – at the same time bolstering the U.S. footprint in Georgia, normalizing military-to-military relations, and in this context, picking up along with what Senator Graham said, moving forward with assisting Georgia with developing credible defense plans and normalizing the fact of defensive arms sales to Georgia and doing so in conjunction with our allies. We’ve also advocated that the United States join the European Union monitoring mission.
Furthermore, on U.S. policy a more aggressive way to facilitate Western investment, continuing OPIC financing to buffer the political risks associated with long-term investment in Georgia, more aggressively using international financial institution support to support actual job creation in Georgia both through agricultural reform support and through our support for the Millennium Challenge Corporation; launching a U.S.-Georgia free trade agreement and banking international financial investment along the lines of occupations that have helped facilitate cross-border movement along these lines.
Let me stop there with the Congress – (inaudible) – recommendations, and turn to Fran for the European Union recommendations.
MS. BURWELL: Thanks, Damon. Let me join with Damon in thanking our task force members and let me also thank Cindy Romaro (ph), who was the intrepid rapporteur on this report. If you look at the list of task force members you’ll see a wide diversity of opinions. And she was the one who negotiated with (draft ?), and it’s – you can put it that way. And many of you know what a challenge that is.
There are basically two elements of this that Damon has laid out: first, Georgia’s need to continue forward with its own reforms and, second, how the U.S. can support this effort by pushing Georgia hard to continue reforms while supporting Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions and holding strongly to our commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity. But there’s a third and central element to this equation, and that’s European involvement. And so I’m very much pleased to see representatives from so many European embassies here today.
Europe must be involved in encouraging Georgia to move forward, and at the same time, retain strong support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions. Let me state the obvious: For Georgia to eventually get into NATO, all allied nations must agree. That’s the U.S., Canada and 26 European nations. Even after the Bucharest Pledge, we have a situation in Europe where many remain skeptical of Georgia as a responsible ally and believe that President Saakashvili did not respond to Russian provocation in the most measured way in 2008.
And this situation has – needs to be worked on. For Georgia to accede to the EU there are several points along the accession trail when progress must be approved by all member state governments – a high barrier to any country.
The EU is the leading trade partner of Georgia – 32 percent of Georgian trade, of exports and imports combined. The U.S., on the other hand, is number five. We are behind Turkey, Ukraine, Azerbaijan with 8 percent of Georgian trade. Neither the U.S. nor Europe has really truly significant investments in Georgia at this time – what – not what we’d like to see.
Europe is more likely over the long term, and Georgia is increasingly important for Europe as an energy corridor, and will be more so in the future. Europe will also feel the impact of whatever happens in Georgia – through migration and other forces – more than we will here in the United States. So Europe has a bigger stake in Georgia’s success and has more tools to help build that success.
The EU has tremendous experience in assisting transitions to democracy. Just look at Poland today; and the fact that we have former Solidarity activists here representing the European Parliament is, I think, quite notable and shows you what can happen in 20 years. But EU accession is an incredibly granular process – much, much more difficult and demanding than NATO membership.
The EU consistently increases its demands with each new country – or each new set of countries that seeks accession. And it should be noticed that when the European Partnership – the Eastern Partnership Communities – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine – there’s not yet a membership prospective, so the major carrot is not yet there.
If we assume that Georgia will not get a membership prospective in the next – immediate future, which I think is probably the case, then for Europe the rhetoric on Georgia should change – be more positive. Georgia needs carrots. And Europe needs to present a strong new vision of Georgia as a middle-Atlantic country – as part of Europe – (inaudible).
But Europe also needs to find some concrete ways to reward Georgia. Through strengthening the Eastern Partnership and a variety of measures, one possibility that we recommended in establishing a roadmap to visa-free travel. This needs to be coordinated because otherwise – it needs to be coordinated with EU Russia policy because otherwise the arrangements that are being made for Russian passport-holders may in fact privilege those in South Ossetia and Abkhazia who hold Russian passports. They may get into the EU more easily than a Georgian who carries – someone who carries a Georgian passport as – (inaudible).
The EU can support Georgian democracy by providing assistance to civil society more than it has done in the past. And we now have a very strong proposal for a European Endowment for Democracy. And that could be a major funder of such activities.
Europe should also, as Damon was mentioning earlier, de-link its policy for the European Partnership from its Russia policy. It should be clear that integration into Europe is up to potential members and the EU, and should not be constrained by Russia or others. The EU can – or Europe can also support Georgia in its territorial integrity. The EU monitoring mission has been an important part of the post-war – I don’t – (inaudible) – the post-war environment in Georgia, but let’s go a little bit farther.
(Inaudible) – with Russia on its noncompliance with the cease-fire, and let’s see about maybe increasing the number of countries who participate in the EUMM. We mentioned the possibility of the U.S. participating.
The EU also needs to clarify what it means by engaging Abkhazia and South Ossetia without recognizing them. How do you deal with local civil society groups and others without necessarily privileging governments that are not the legitimate government? So that’s the question. We should have a discussion across the Atlantic about that and how we could work those issues better.
Finally, we need to deepen Georgia’s economic integration with Europe. Senator Shaheen made the point about how those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia should someday look to Georgia and see Georgia as prosperous, moving forward economically, and this is what will make them want to come back to Georgia – want to get rid of the current situation. The EU is currently talking with Georgia about opening negotiations for a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. We would encourage the Europeans to open those negotiations sooner rather than later.
But that agreement should be based on a standard of economic regulation which is compatible with Georgia’s economic level of development. The one that’s being proposed – the standards that are being put before the Georgians right now are extremely strict and probably much more suitable for a country with a higher level of economic growth, whose citizens have a higher per capita income. We also need to find more ways to encourage European investment in Georgia, perhaps through something like what we have here which is OPIC, which guarantees risks against – guarantees investments against risk.
And they also need – as Europe goes through its negotiations with Russia on the final stages of whether Russia will join the WTO, we need to keep Georgia in the loop on that. And we need to also ensure – or we need to also discourage Georgia from wanting to play the spoiler on that and falling into that. Let’s make Russia stand up and make this decision on its own, whether it will come to an agreement – (inaudible).
Let me end by saying that this is Washington, not Brussels. We cannot here, on our own, get Georgia into NATO. And we certainly can’t get Georgia into the EU. What we can do is encourage our Georgian friends to take the need for further reform very seriously and to help them develop the capacities to take on the responsibilities of NATO and EU membership. We can also encourage our European friends to provide positive incentives that are essential in making Georgia a true member of the Euro-Atlantic community. Thanks.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Fran. (Applause.)
Thank you very much. Just one quick word, and then I’m going to bring you – open up the conversation. I think we began this with the premise that security is one of the greatest challenges to Georgia’s path to the West. We had a backdrop as we’ve talked about this, if Russia remains in – if Russia remains in violation of the EU-brokered cease-fire agreement that ended the war; it’s occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia, increasing its military presence, seeking to destabilize Georgia, to delegitimize its political leadership.
It’s against this backdrop that we’ve argued we can’t afford a sense of ambiguity and lack of clarity and division in Western policy. Our policy goals need to be clear; that’s why we began with first principles of laying out the vision and backing that vision up with the very particular roadmap on that path to integration. Many of us involved in European policy of the ’90s were in an environment in which there were – was a tremendous amount of skepticism about the Baltic states, that they could one day be members of NATO. And yet – and the European Union – and yet their performance, combined with U.S. leadership, helped shift the debate, transforming their idea of membership from a radical notion to a national outcome.
I think today if you look at Georgia, the Georgian people have an audacious vision. Nearly 90 percent of the Georgian people, according to a range of opinion polls – they see their country in the West. They won’t be held back. They see their country in NATO and the European Union. Those are astounding numbers far higher than we saw in most countries that joined those institutions. So our task force argues that U.S. and European policy should be aimed at making that audacious vision a reality.
And as Georgia’s belief that the West – that NATO and that the United States and that Europe – that we share this vision, that we share the end goal with them, they in turn, I think, will have more confidence when it comes to making the tough internal decisions that are necessary to move forward, despite the situation of regional security.
So in many respects we view that the Georgian people have made the choice about the destiny and the future they want. And in that choice they deserve our support in getting there.
So with that I’d like to open up the conversation and continue our conversation. I think, Ambassador Yakobashvili, would you like to kick us off? You can either take the podium – either mic is fine with me. Right here, thank you. Thank you for joining us today.
Q: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)
MR. WILSON: Please do, please do.
Q: Thank you. Today this morning my radio in my car was telling me that the only true people are those who are occupying Wall Street, I think, from inside or outside. But I see that there are many true people here already, not in Wall Street. And it encourages me because these true people all come here to hear about Georgia and they do care about Georgia. And this very important for us – for Georgians – because every small nation, you know, is inspired by its friends around the world. And we are extremely privileged that paper which is produced about Georgia was co-chaired by two very prominent senators. And I want to express our gratitude for that leadership that these particular senators and the United States show toward my country.
This report is not, for a Georgian perspective, is not a mirror that we can look at mirror and see ourselves. Because when they look at the mirror without going to the – (inaudible) – look differently. (Soft laughter.) And that (one ?), it’s not an X-ray that goes through you and shows your bones. I think it’s much more complicated and sophisticated. It’s more a 3-D image of Georgia. It’s more computer tomography that shows you more information than just one glance or one story at one particular time. And that’s why I think that this report has a huge value, because it gives us so much information about different parts of the body called Georgia.
Of course, the patient is always – (inaudible) – saying that he did not (tell ?) that he had a – that I had a blood pressure, high or low or something like that. And obviously, for a nation from the – (inaudible) – for Georgia should be, you know, we disagree over things that are written here. But I can tell you that our position is very simple. We appreciate what is written there.
You know, things that we don’t particularly like, we accept it from the friends as things to fine-tune, to fix, to take a second look or to think about it, at least. And I think that the value of these kinds of exercises cannot be underestimated because in this process of transformation, you may lose some sense of reality and you may lose some important things behind. And you need friends that are very honest – and very open friends – to tell you what is wrong with you, and what is working and what is not.
One of the greatest values of this paper is also answering the basic question that a lot of people are asking me in this country, and that basic question is, why we should care about – why U.S. or Europe should care about Georgia. And I think in this paper, that question is very well answered. And Senator Graham and Senator Shaheen was also elaborating on this question as well.
And if you will enlarge it, we will see that Georgia is the most advanced success case of transformation in the last seven years, or 10 years. And we are talking about a world that is very turbulent. And people are trying to give some kind of name or type of what is happening in the world, not only in the Middle East but in Europe and United States. So I don’t know what is happening. I don’t have a ready-made answer.
But I can see that more this world became a lot more complex than it used to be. And the methodology that you are going to employ – (inaudible) – very much on the methodology that you are using. And we already see that everything goes not macro, micro, global, but goes nano. So probably, we need some kind of nano-diplomacy to help on these issues. And Georgia is – this nano-picture of Georgia, actually, a little picture of Georgia gives you some answers that can be replicated in other parts of the world.
People sitting in this room own the success of Georgia as well. I don’t want to go into naming – (inaudible). You know them. And it was not only us. It was enormous help from our friends, that we managed to take a country from being called a country with bribes and tribes into the successful, you know, model of transformation.
I was at Yale University last week, and a lot of people were coming to me and asking about how we deal with corruption, how we managed to fight the corruption. And of course, I was ready to extend my knowledge in this regard, and the first advice was, you know, you don’t create a special bureau for it. It should be a job of the entire government. You have to own it. And all the reforms that are happening in Georgia, we own them. We are responsible for them. You know, we also bear responsibility if they fail.
But it’s a very challenging and interesting exercise to take a country quickly out of the (disparity ?) and to have a functioning democracy. And it’s very rewarding.
A missing part in that exercise is security. I was reading, again, a very interesting book called “After Victory,” written by John Ikenberry, who was elaborating why the Second World War was – why it is that the Second World War brought to Europe peace and stability.
And the key element there is the security. The key element there is NATO. The key element is that the European countries had an opportunity to look at themselves without looking at others and buying guns and tanks and things like that.
Building democracy under gunpoint is not an easy task. We are more or less managing, but I think it’s high time that we will be more relaxed in that regard. And the modernization can come only through Euro-Atlantic family membership, and that’s membership in NATO.
And I do think – and agree with the report and the senators – that it’s high time, now, that Georgia will get clarity about its NATO membership in the upcoming summit in Chicago. It is happening in U.S. U.S. is the leading country in this process, and I think that U.S. should the take the leadership in granting the Georgian – together with European allies – either a (partnership ?) action plan or something equivalent that will destroy the ambiguity in this regard.
Many things that are in this report that you made are either already handled, or in the process of handling, or things are happening. When it comes to judiciary reforms or the media, I think there are things already in progress. Definitely true of funding opposition – it’s not a question any more due to recent developments in Georgia.
But nevertheless, I think that the authors of the document gave us ample opportunity to examine our current situation and to find the ways to progress. And I do believe that this bipartisan support from the United States Senate, and individuals, and analysts and journalists, are underlining that Georgia’s success is not only Georgia’s success. Georgia’s success is Europe’s – the Western success in our part of the world, and it’s a clear kind of way forward for the many other nations who are aspiring to democracy and transformation.
And if there is any example of how you can disregard labels that, you know, corruption is an ethnic component of a certain group of people, or you know, Islamic – the radical Islam, or these kinds of things – I think it comes down to one very important thing. It’s about governance. And the revolutions we’ve seen, they are not revolutions of faith or revolutions of, I don’t know, ideology. These are revolutions of governance, like in Georgia.
So how it was helped – fixed in Georgia, it can be fixed the same way in other parts of the world, regardless of their ethnicity, religious or any other affiliation. And I hope that in this room, we will have some other task force as well about the Middle East. And we will see them as – (inaudible) – as Georgia advancing in their democratic development.
MR. WILSON: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador. Thank you for joining us. (Applause.) We unfortunately – (inaudible) – but I want to try to just quickly pick up a couple of points. I caught Kurt Volker, and I’ve got a question in the back as well. So Kurt, please. And then – (inaudible, cross talk).
Q: I think maybe I’ll just go over here. I’ll try to be –
MR. WILSON: I’d just ask if folks can try to be as tight as possible, so that we could actually not keep you too much over.
Q: I’m just going to end, so I will be quick. But I wanted to make one point, which builds on the ambassador’s point here. We’ve heard a lot of details of the report from Damon and Fran, but the broader point that I wanted to make – there are a lot of ways to look at European history over a long period of time.
You can look it as the rise and the clash and the decline of empires. You can look at it as the integration of France and Germany, and overcoming decades of conflict – or centuries of conflict – in Europe. But I think the most meaningful way to look at European history is to look at the progress of the idea of governance. This is what the ambassador was talking about: the relationship of people to the governments that rule over them, whether it was the initial imposition of governments by might, or then the assertion of the divine right of monarchies to rule over others, to finally, the assertion that the people have the right to choose the governments that rule over them, and to then found societies that are based on freedom, democracy, market economy, rule of law, and human rights.
And to look at that broad sweep of European history, there has been tremendous progress over centuries, and more recently over decades. And we’ve seen this in Western Europe – you take the Magna Carta, the French Revolution, the influence on the U.S. Revolution, French philosophers; you take the aftermath of World War II and the establishment of democratic institutions in Italy and Germany, the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And what Georgia reminds us, and also the Balkans and also Ukraine, when we’re talking about Georgia today is that as much progress as we’ve made in seeing this sweep of history, we never finished the job. There are parts of Europe that have not fully become part of that development and human progression that still need to reach there. For those of us who can take pride and satisfaction in how far we’ve come, we mustn’t forget that we have this much that lies before us.
So that’s what this report is really, I think, getting at, is that the job is still ahead. Georgia’s made tremendous progress. It’s not perfect; none of us are perfect. It has work to do. But we shouldn’t rest on our laurels and look backward at what’s been done and feel now that things are too hard. We have to keep looking forward at Georgia and Ukraine and Russia itself and say, our mission in establishing this better form of governance for people is still not complete.
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Kurt. You’ve – Kurt very much captured the philosophy that you – (inaudible) – together. (Applause.) Let me pick up – given our time, what I’d like to do is just take the last few comments, and then we’ll wrap up with that. So the gentleman in the back, if you – (inaudible) – as well, if you would like.
Q: Hi. Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Leshte Savidze (ph); I’m a former CEO of – (inaudible) – in Georgia.
I wanted to thank (you ?) once again, Atlantic Council, for inviting us to this event, and I wanted to thank the bipartisan support to Georgia that we have experienced throughout the last few years, and its continued support to get Georgia to the next stage of development. I wanted to also thank the European community (that is ?) here, looking at Georgia – (inaudible) – Georgia – (inaudible) – for Georgia.
I wanted to mention a couple of moments from my personal experience in Georgia.
MR. WILSON: And if you could do so briefly, please, I’d appreciate that, very briefly. (Chuckles.)
Q: Just wanted to see your report – I just want to underline what the senators here mentioned. One, it was mentioned that Georgia should be – people of Georgia and not any individual in Georgia that U.S. or European Union should be supporting. That’s one – just to give a platform to my next topic. And two, another senator that mentioned that Georgia has to formally show – (inaudible) – of its own breakaway regions in the face of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to show that we are protecting human rights. We are – we are (guaranteed ?) the rule of law and we are a democracy; we’re building a true democracy in Georgia.
So now, these two topics are obviously important topics for democracy in that – well, (quoting now from ?) your report when you say only 6 percent of Georgia population believes in court system – (inaudible) – today. Even though U.S. and European Union is fully supporting Georgia, and I have no doubt they will try to continue, will have to underline as much as possible rule of law and – freedom, human rights and the rule of law in Georgia in order for Georgia really being able to be a partner in the future –
MR. WILSON: Thank you.
Q: – and – (inaudible) – individuals who will shift the country’s – (public ?) rule.
MR. WILSON: Thank you very much. Diotor Fleets (ph), and then we’ll close with Ken. Just – if you could do so briefly.
Q: Thank you. I’d like to thank Fran for your efforts you made. True, I represent the European Parliament here. But I spent two years of my life assisting and advising Georgia’s parliament in Tbilisi. (Inaudible) – but let me make – (inaudible) – which I had from those years – it was five years – five, six years ago – there were actions on both American side and on EU side. The problem was that the actions were completely parallel, but they were not joint actions. I am full of admiration for your report, and my question is whether you see already, because I couldn’t find it, some proposals regarding joint actions. Because you know – (inaudible) – from the perspective of Georgia’s, it’s important if they know that, it’s not that in room A, Americans are active, in room B, Europeans are active – even more important, Russia was mentioned here. It is more important for Russians to know that we may – (inaudible) – and we cannot be played over one against the other one, which is very often the case.
To finish, I will say, Georgia case is a perfect case from (a nowadays ?) perspective (where they seek all ?) joint possibilities on working on trans-Atlantic acts on joint issues. Georgia is fantastic example. This, the place where both and together and jointly, U.S. and EU can and should work (the U.N. ?) proposals – (inaudible).
MR. WILSON: Thank you, Diotor (ph). Let me pick up Ken and then we’ll (close out?).
MS. : Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MR. WILSON: Please, Ken Wollack.
KEN WOLLACK: Oh, OK. Maybe I’ll sit here. (Inaudible.)
First of all, I just wanted to – as a task force member, I wanted to thank the leadership team of Senator Shaheen and Graham and Damon and Fran and Cindy (sp) for all of their work.
I just wanted to add a couple points to Ambassador Volker’s eloquent remarks a few minutes ago. I think what is interesting about this report is, that brings a group of people together based on some fundamental principles. First, I think all of us considered ourselves friends of Georgia. Secondly, I think we all agree that Georgia deserved greater international attention as it struggles with a number of very, very important challenges – and third, this notion of the interconnectedness between security, development and democracy and how we see these things, the linkages in how these things emerged.
I think the report focuses on deepening democracy, and rightfully so. And I believe members of the task force – as I said, all friends of Georgia – would certainly view the trajectory of democracy in the country on a more positive track than most of Tblisi’s neighbors.
Nevertheless, the Georgian people hold its country to higher standards. And so, therefore, the international community also holds Georgia to those standards as well.
And a deep-seated belief on the part of all of us, that the democratic progress in Georgia is the best guarantor of security and European integration – and that, I think, reflects the hopes and aspirations of the Georgian people.
NDI is the most recent survey. We have worked in Georgia for nearly 20 years. And I think the report also reflects the views of the Georgian people. In our most recent survey, I think a vast majority of the Georgian people see Georgia as a democracy or progressing down a democratic path. But at the same time, an overwhelming majority believes that democracy has to deepen in the country.
And I think the report in that regard outlines a number of important areas where we can respond to the initiative being taken on the ground and in the – in the hope and the expectation that that progress will continue. And that will be good not only for the Georgian people but Georgia’s relationship with Europe and the United States and the – and the global community.
MR. WILSON: Thank you very much, Ken. We benefited just tremendously from having folks like Ken Wollack, Ambassador Volker on our task force.
Let me Fran to close with an answer to Diotor’s (ph) question, and then thank the audience for your indulgence for letting this run slightly over.
MS. BURWELL: Thanks very much. Thanks Damon. And thanks, Diotor (ph), for that right-on-target set of remarks, because you do see, in situations like this, parallel U.S. and European efforts that don’t connect, or that sometimes actually contradict each other. And I would say that one place where we do have some de-conflicting to do is the idea of a U.S.-Georgia FTA, and then EU deep and comprehensive free trade agreement of the type currently being talked about, because this sets up different regulatory structures that no country, let alone a country with somewhat limited administrative capacity, could handle. So we need to have a conversation about how do we integrate Georgia economically into the West in a way that it remains open to American economics – trade and investment as well.
But I think the important thing about the report is that we hope it provides a message and a (set of ?) projects, whether it is more civil society support – more support for civil society organizations, more support for democracy-building that we can – that officials in the U.S. and Europe can then talk with their Georgian colleagues about what would be the best way forward together.
I hope that – I think the most important thing is the messaging, the rhetoric. It’s not just rhetoric. It’s very important that not only Georgians but Russians and also our own constituents here in the United States and in Europe understand that we are all on the same page. And I hope that the process that we went through in the task force has ended up with a report where the language and the ambitions are something that both U.S. and European leaders can buy into and use as a basis for identifying some really specific core things that they can do together to help Georgia move forward with Georgians.
MR. WILSON: Thank you very much, Fran.
As you see, the task force believes the job of completing Europe is not yet done. Georgia is earning a place in that great project. And our policy, U.S. (foreign ?) policy, needs to embrace that vision and back it up with real policy.
So thank you for coming today. We’ve tried to make our contribution to this debate. And I appreciate your sharing – your sharing (your morning ?) with us on this. Thank you very much. (Applause.)