On January 30th, President Obama welcomed Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to the Oval Office. The President has had the chance to meet with President Saakashvili several times before – at the Nuclear Security Summit here in Washington two years ago, in Lisbon during the NATO Summit in 2010, and elsewhere. The Vice President also hosted a small lunch for President Saakashvili in the West Wing, and Secretary Clinton invited him to an additional meeting with her at the State Department.
Last year marked the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s independence and the 8th anniversary of the Rose Revolution, which President Saakashvili led. In his remarks after the meeting, President Obama congratulated President Saakashvili for what he and the people of Georgia have built during this period - an independent, sovereign, and democratic nation. Georgia has made impressive progress in strengthening democratic institutions, fighting corruption, and advancing its ties with Euro-Atlantic institutions. We appreciate Georgia’s contributions as a reliable partner; for example, our forces stand together in one of the toughest places in Afghanistan, and we do important work together to stop nuclear smuggling, which makes us all safer.
During their meeting, the two Presidents committed to advancing our partnership. President Obama agreed to launch a high-level dialogue about the potential approaches we could pursue to increase bilateral trade and investment, ranging from an enhanced trade and investment framework and investment agreements to a free trade agreement. We also agreed to continue to develop our defense cooperation. This will help the Georgian military pursue reform, sustain its work with ISAF in Afghanistan, and operate more effectively with NATO. Meanwhile, the United States will continue to work with our European allies to support Georgia’s NATO aspirations. Finally, we’ll keep partnering with Georgia as it strengthens its democracy. Parliamentary and presidential elections that are free and fair, followed by the country’s first peaceful transfer of power, would be a defining moment in Georgian history and an example to others in the region.
In his remarks to the press after leaving the White House, President Saakashvili said: “I am very impressed and satisfied by the results of the meeting….[it] exceeded expectations.” In an interview he gave later that day to the BBC, President Saakashvili described U.S. – Georgia relations as having been “elevated to a new level” by his meetings in Washington this week.
We will look forward to following through on the opportunities that were discussed by the two leaders this week to advance our mutual interests in democracy and economic prosperity and to promote stability in the Caucasus region and beyond.
Liz Sherwood-Randall is Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for European Affairs.