Asked about the US response to Georgia’s democratic retreat, as well as anti-Western rhetoric and attacks on US Ambassador Kelly Degnan, Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried stressed that the recent trend of democratic retreat in Georgia has been of great concern to the US.
Speaking about her visit to Georgia in June, which coincided with the decision of the European Commission to give Georgia a European perspective instead of candidate status, the assistant secretary of state noted that it was “so exciting” for Georgia because the country was “at the forefront” on the path to EU accession. .
“What surprises me about Georgia is that 85% of Georgians support Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and I think that this puts pressure on the authorities,” she said.
Donfried said the US was ready to help Georgia with reforms and stressed that “we still hope that progress will be made, but we are concerned about the lack of progress today.”
Speaking of criticism of Degnan, Donfried said the ambassador is “a fantastic US representative in Georgia and I support her any day of the week.”
“We talked about this with the Georgian authorities. We have also spoken to the Prime Minister about this, and although these groups do not represent the authorities, some groups that have harshly and unfairly criticized the ambassador have close ties to the authorities, and we have clearly stated that this criticism undermines the partnership that we have had for a long time ” she added.
When told that there should be “visible progress” towards Georgia’s democratic goals and European integration, Donfried said: “I think it’s important to remind everyone that Russia still occupies 20% of Georgia’s territory and is trying to have a negative impact on Georgia’s independence, her ties to the US and her democracy. So I sincerely believe, as you just said, that our continued engagement and support is critical to the future of Georgia and the South Caucasus.”
Asked by Senator Jean Shaheen whether the US should reconsider its strategic partnership with Georgia amid a “huge backtracking” and the fact that the Georgian authorities have not delivered on their pledge to become an EU candidate, the Assistant Secretary of State replied: “I think it’s always good to evaluate policy and therefore I am open to a more detailed discussion with you. You know the reasons why we wanted to keep the course at the moment.”
“We have expressed serious concern about the disturbing statements or behavior of some Georgian politicians. As I said, I don’t think this applies to most Georgians,” she added.
Black Sea strategy
Asked about a bipartisan bill to review U.S. strategy in the Black Sea region in the face of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the Assistant Secretary of State noted that “there is no doubt that Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has shifted our focus to the Black Sea region and our further actions there. “.
Noting that NATO takes “very seriously” the threat Russia poses to NATO allies in the Black Sea, Donfried said that “the position of the US Forces in the region today is completely different than it was before February 24th. So I think there is no doubt that the way we think about the region and the critical importance of US involvement is different than it was before the war.”
However, she also noted that right now the US is focused on Ukraine winning this war because “that will be very much the basis of how we think about the Black Sea strategy.”
The Assistant Secretary of State added that while the US is focused on developing a new strategy for the Black Sea region, there is currently “no timetable” for that.