U.S. Congress: Georgia Military Aid Imperiled By Human Rights Concerns
A statement adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives threatens that U.S.-Georgia "political, economic and security" ties may be harmed by the new government's zeal to bring to justice former ruling party members. The scale of arrests made since last year's parliamentary elections and the coming to power of Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition has indeed troubled many, even those who looked forward to a reckoning of the crimes of the former government. The irony is that these ostensible opponents of that overreach --arguing that it is "motivated by political considerations" -- appear to be themselves primarily motivated by political considerations.
The statement, passed last week and spearheaded by Representative Michael Turner, a Republican from Ohio, included a veiled threat to Georgia's NATO prospects:
[T]he measures taken by the Georgian Government against former officials and political opponents, apparently in part motivated by political considerations, may have a significant negative impact on cooperation between the United States and Georgia, including efforts to build a stronger relationship in political, economic, and security matters, as well as progress on integrating Georgia into international organizations... the United States must be unambiguous when democratic backsliding occurs in a key ally after a peaceful and democratic transfer of power between political parties.
The reaction from Tbilisi was as swift as you'd expect. President Mikheil Saakashvili, remarkably, took the side of the members of Congress threatening to cut support to his country:
"Seeing this statement broke my heart because in previous years the US Congress adopted different statements, nothing of this kind, and instead of it adopting a statement in which issues of providing armament to Georgia, equipping the Georgian army, speeding up Georgia's NATO integration would have been discussed, the US Congress, for the first time ever, adopted such a statement. This is not just a newspaper article or someone's statement; this is the statement made by a committee of the US Congress ...
Georgia exists today because the US stood next to us and if the US stops supporting us, we will be left to the mercy of [Russia's chief sanitary inspector, Gennadiy] Onishchenko's country. The US wants Georgia to be a strong and independent state whereas Onishchenko's homeland wants to see dependant and weak, disintegrated and unhappy Georgian nation.
Ivanishvili supporters, on the other hand, saw the hand of Saakashvili's United National Movement behind the resolution:
"Considering the challenges faced by Georgia, manipulating with these issues is very dangerous for Georgia. A week ago, Congressman [Michael] Turner supported a very favorable provision on deepening the defense cooperation with Georgia. In a week's time he has starkly changed his position and initiated this statement; that makes us assume that he came under influence from Georgia. Given the spirit of the statement, you can draw conclusions yourself who could be behind that," Georgia's ambassador to the US told Rustavi 2 TV channel.
The U.S. ambassador to Georgia downplayed the statement, and indeed it's not likely to have any legal impact even if it made it all the way through the Congress. But if Georgia's ambassador's implication is correct, and that it was "influence from Georgia" which inspired this resolution, it's a pretty remarkable thing for politicians to lobby against their own country getting aid.