Georgia Asks for US Protection against Ukraine-Style Crisis
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili has become another Georgian leader to go to Washington in search of US protection from Russia. This time around, Georgia hopes that the US can help make sure Russia does not try to pull a Ukraine in Georgia to prevent it from entering the European Union’s economic space.
“[The Sochi Olympic] Games are over, and we expect Russia to increase pressure on Georgia before signing the association agreement with the European Union,” Gharibashvili said after meeting President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joseph Biden on February 25. “[W]e would highly appreciate the US administration, Congress, think-tanks…. [expressing] support [to] us through constant and proper messaging to Russia, upholding the European choices of Georgia,” Gharibashvili commented at a talk the same day at the Atlantic Council.
The 31-year-old prime minister’s tone is a change from the previous sotto-voce complaints about Moscow. But perhaps that is because implementation of the EU Association Agreement, which he dubbed a "master plan for Europeanization," is the prime minister's first major foreign-policy challenge. Speaking at the Atlantic Council, Gharibashvili noted that exactly 93 years ago Russia's Bolshevik army invaded the independent Democratic Republic of Georgia on February 25 and placed the country under Soviet rule for 70 years. Today, he warned, the events in Ukraine show that Russian pressure tactics still “threaten to reverse gains that the free world gained in our region after the dissolution of the Soviet empire."
He also had a message for the European Union to display greater commitment to post-Soviet countries. “Unless the European Union gives a clear promise of membership to the successful countries of the Eastern Partnership, these crises, [crises] similar to Ukraine, will happen again and again,” Gharibashvili said.
In response, the White House reiterated its ongoing support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions. But, as the past has shown, it is unclear just how much Washington will or can stick its neck out for Tbilisi.
Nonetheless, the US appears to have its eye out. In early March, the White House will play host as well to Iurie Leanca, the prime minister of Moldova, which also plans to sign an association agreement with the EU this year.