Gavel, with defocussed law books behind.

The Georgian Association in the USA issues a statement concerning Russia’s Annexation of Crimea

Below is a transcription of the statement. View a copy of the actual statement here.

Statement of the Georgian Association in the United States of America

The Georgian Association in the United States of America, the oldest organization representing the Georgian-American community, condemns Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the strongest terms and fully supports the government of Ukraine in declaring the March 16th referendum on Crimea’s independence illegal. The Association calls on the US Government to undertake all possible steps to protect the fundamental principles of international law, based on sovereignty and the territorial integrity of nation-states.

The Association calls on the Obama administration to ensure security guarantees for Georgia and to advocate forcefully for Georgia’s accession into NATO. Granting Georgia the Membership Action Plan (MAP), which it has earned by meeting strict NATO requirements, is a more effective way to impose a real political cost on Moscow for its illegal and politically destabilizing activities, while demonstrating to Ukraine and other countries that the hard work of reform pays off.

Economic sanctions and a travel ban against individual members of the Russian political and military leadership alone are unlikely to convince Russia to withdraw its military from Crimea and to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine for several reasons.

First, it is highly unlikely that sanctions alone will persuade President Putin to relinquish Crimea or to allow Ukraine out of Russia’s political orbit. The Kremlin’s desire to keep its immediate neighbors within its sphere of influence trump any economic interests that may be damaged by sanctions.

Second, based on their experience in 2008, President Putin and his circle are convinced that Russia can wait out sanctions. They expect Europe to cave in due to its dependence on Russian gas and the damaging economic losses that will result from tit-for-tat sanctions. Whether this belief is accurate is immaterial; what matters is that Putin and his inner circle perceive it to be true and will base their actions on this perception. Relying on economic sanctions will not yield their intended political effect, especially given the autocratic nature of the Russian government and its insensitivity to domestic pressures.

Offering NATO membership to Georgia is a proper strategic response. NATO membership, in concert with the EU’s Eastern Partnership program, extends stability and prosperity to qualified countries, and serves the interests of the United States. The alternative is a Russian model of confrontation, dismemberment of neighboring states, instability and corrupt governance,

In order to extend NATO membership to Georgia, the US government should open immediate dialogue with its NATO partners, Germany and Turkey, as well as with the UK, which is the host nation of the next summit, to push Georgia’s MAP forward at an accelerated pace.

Given Georgia’s significant contributions to US-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, its strategic location and its success in becoming a stable and democratic state, the Association calls on the US government to immediately begin negotiations with its NATO allies to ensure the rapid promotion of Georgia’s NATO membership.

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The Georgian Association in the USA issues a statement concerning the mounting Russian government pressure on its neighbors

Below is a transcription of the statement. View a copy of the actual statement here.

Statement of the Georgian Association in the United States of America

The Georgian Association in the United States of America, the oldest organization representing the Georgian-American community, is deeply concerned about mounting Russian pressure on its neighbors, primarily on states which are trying to pursue an independent foreign policy and are aiming at European integration. In the last several weeks under Russian pressure, Armenia and Ukraine reversed their decision to sign documents with the European Union on Association, and on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements. Unfortunately, Russia prevailed over the EU.

On 17 September 2013, Russian occupation forces in the Tskhinvali region of Georgia (South Ossetia) began erecting barbed-wire fencing along administrative borders, separating the region from the rest of Georgia and dividing villages and their communities. The Georgian Association believes this not only undermines Georgia’s independence and sovereignty, but also runs counter to US foreign policy interests in the region.

Since achieving independence more than two decades ago, Georgia has shown its support for Western ideals and has pursued integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. On October 27, 2013, Georgia held its sixth presidential election, which was praised by all election observers as organized, fair, and transparent, and which finalized the peaceful transfer of power to the political opposition. At the end of November 2013, Georgia is expected to initial an Association Agreement with the European Union at the EU’s third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. This event will draw Georgia one step closer to integration into European structures.

The government of the Russian Federation sees Georgia’s attempts to integrate with the EU and NATO as a threat, and is placing many obstacles in Georgia’s path. Russian strategy is to destabilize Georgia through the occupation of the two break-away regions of Abkhazeti (Abkhazia) and Tskhinvali Region (South Ossetia).

Russia’s aggressive behavior toward Georgia flies in the face of accepted norms of international behavior, and runs counter to US strategic interests for a number of reasons. First, Georgia is a firm ally of the United States, contributing, per capita, one of the highest troop levels to US-led military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, Georgia is a key transit country and indispensable element of the energy and transportation corridor that connects Europe with Central Asia and China. Finally, as one of only a handful of countries in the region with truly competitive democratic processes, Georgia preserves and promotes Western values in a volatile region of geostrategic importance.

Given the importance of Georgia’s territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty to US strategic interests in the region, we urge your administration to undertake the following steps:

  • – The White House should issue a statement on the occasion of the EU’s third Eastern Partnership Summit, which reaffirms US support for Georgia’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, and its right to pursue independent foreign policy decisions.
  • – The United States should redouble its efforts through diplomatic channels to end the Russian military occupation of internationally recognized Georgian territory, to stop the construction of physical barriers and demolish already constructed ones to allow free movement of Abkhazian, Ossetian, Georgian and other citizens of Georgia through the administrative borders between Georgia and the occupied territories.
  • – The United States should start diplomatic efforts in preparation for the NATO summit of 2014 to recognize Georgia’s progress in military reforms, as well as Georgia’s military contribution to the international security forces, and to issue NATO’s membership action plan for Georgia.
  • – The United States Government should plan multiple visits of high level delegations from the US government throughout 2014 to send a strong signal of high level engagement with Georgia and its partner countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The Georgian Association is open for collaboration with the United States Government in its effort to support all the above mentioned efforts.

Board of Directors of the Georgian Association in the USA

 

Svaneti

Open Letter from the Central and East European Coalition to the President of the United States

The CEEC expresses concern over the Russian Government’s pressure on its neighbors on the eve of the Eastern Partnership Summit of the EU to be held in Vilnius on November 27-28, 2013. Below is a transcription of the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), a coalition of diaspora groups representing more than twenty million Armenian, Belarusan, Bulgarian, Czech, Estonian, Georgian, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak and Ukrainian Americans, is gravely concerned over Russian government pressure on its neighbors on the eve of the Eastern Partnership Summit of the European Union, to be held in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on November 27-28, 2013. At stake is the country of Ukraine, which will be afforded an opportunity to sign an Association Agreement (AA) on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, while it is anticipated that other countries such as Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova are planning to initial the agreement, in anticipation of final approval by next year.

Unfortunately, the Russian Federation sees the process of Euro-integration of these countries as a threat to its national interests. Russian officials are on record expressing their discontent and have threatened economic ramifications should such agreements be reached. As an alternative to the European Union, the Russian government has initiated the Eurasian Customs Union and is trying to persuade countries on its borders to become members. The current membership in the Customs Union includes Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. More recently, it was announced that Armenia would join the Customs Union.

As the date of the Vilnius Summit approaches, pressure continues to mount from the Russian Federation upon those countries vying for European integration. Such pressure has evolved in many forms, in particular: a ban on certain Moldovan and Ukrainian imports into the Russian market; the borderization and creeping annexation of the territories of Georgia occupied by Russian military forces since 2008, among other actions. Russia recently concluded a very aggressive Zapad-13 military exercise in the Kaliningrad region, continuing a pattern of war games simulating threats to NATO members in the region, in this case Poland and the Baltic states. The Russian Federation is advancing its tactics on other states, particularly on Ukraine, a strategic partner of the United States and a keystone to stability and security in Europe.

While the United States is not a member of the European Union, U.S. diplomatic efforts to reinforce democratic processes and defend our national interests cannot be underestimated. In December 2012, Secretary Clinton mentioned, in her final speech as Secretary of State, the imminent threat of Russia’s undue influence in the region. “There is a move to re-Sovietize the region,” she stated. “It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.” Several European leaders and officials within the European Commission have also expressed their concern over these recent developments.

Mr. President, efforts by the United States should help to relieve the strain being placed on Russia’s western-oriented neighbors. To do so, we propose several policy recommendations that would strengthen democratic institutions in the region:

1) Issue a White House statement emphasizing the importance of U.S. strategic interests in Central and Eastern Europe and independent nations making their own future decisions;
2) Utilize diplomatic channels by the U.S. government to raise concerns about the encroachment of Russian territorial interests in the region, especially with respect to Georgia;
3) Strengthen our resolve with nations within NATO who have been threatened by Russia — e.g., Estonia with cyber intrusions — and thus may experience similar Russian manipulation after the Eastern Partnership Summit in November; and, 4) Meet with CEEC members at the White House to show a public sign of support for the region.
We hope that you agree on the importance of these issues and will take steps to underscore U.S. support for the countries wishing to align themselves with the EU. We look forward to the opportunity to meet with you to further discuss these issues.

View a copy of the actual letter here.

Svaneti 2

The Georgian Association expresses concern over Georgia-related statement in H.R. 1960: NDAA

On June 14, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1960 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a statement in Section 1244 related to Georgia. The section expresses general support to Georgia, and then heavily focuses on internal political developments in Georgia. Part (b) (3) of the statement reads: “The 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 statement ends with condolences to the Georgian people for the death in Afghanistan of ten Georgian soldiers, serving in ISAF operations, as a result of two separate bombings.

The Georgian Association expresses deep concern over this statement in the NDAA. Attaching this language to the NDAA is damaging to the US-Georgia strategic partnership, which is built upon trust, respect and institutional integrity. The timing of this statement against the backdrop of the significant losses of Georgian troops in Afghanistan is particularly insensitive.

The United States Congress should express its position towards internal developments in Georgia, using appropriate committees in both chambers of Congress, as well as the bipartisan Helsinki Committee. This particular position, however, should be based on a thorough investigation of the realities on the ground.

Linking Georgia’s internal politics to the issue of US-Georgian strategic and military cooperation only strengthens Russian hegemony in the region, while simultaneously undermining US influence. We encourage members of the US Congress to use strong language on enhancing defense cooperation with Georgia previously included in the draft NDAA bill, adopted by House Armed Service Committee on June 7 in a 59-2 vote.

The Georgian Association in the United States calls on its members to contact members of Congress to advocate for a bill that serves both the US-Georgia partnership and the interests of the United States in a geopolitically important region.

The Board of Directors Georgian Association in the USA

The Georgian Association in the USA completed an Advocacy Day in Washington DC

On June 4th, 2013 the Georgian Association in the USA organized an Advocacy Day for Georgia. The all-day event began with a meeting at the Department of State and was followed by eight meetings on Capitol Hill. The Georgian community was represented by GA president Mamuka Tsereteli, executive director Nino Aduashvili, David Soumbadze (MD), Veronika Metonidze (VA), Vasil Jaiani (DC), Alexander Meladze (NY), Bakur Bejaneishvili (MD), Vlad Bregvadze (VA), and Noel Brockett (MD)

The Advocacy Day participants raised issues of pressing priority for Georgia and the Georgian community in the United States. Among the topics discussed were Georgia’s security and its future integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. The meetings called for the following actions: strong advocacy for Georgia’s NATO membership and support for granting a Membership Action Plan to Georgia in 2014, strengthening Georgia’s defensive capabilities, stronger US leadership on development of the Energy and Transportation Corridor connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus to Europe and the Mediterranean, the increase of economic assistance to Georgia and support for civil society and democratic development programs.

The participants met with Justine Friedman, director of Caucasian Affairs at the Department of State, Representative Bridenstine and his foreign policy adviser and senior staff members for Representative Van Hollen, Senator Shaheen, Representative Thornberry, Senator Warner, Representative Sires, Senator Kaine and Representative Guthrie.

At the end of the day the participants attended the celebration of the 95th anniversary of Georgian Independence organized by the Embassy of Georgia.

The Georgian Association is planning to organize a follow-up Advocacy Day in the early Fall. We thank all our participants for their service and support and encourage your active participation in the future events.

Please visit our Facebook page for more photos from the event.

The Georgian Association in the USA is organizing an Advocacy Day in Washington DC on June 4th, 2013

In celebration of the 95th anniversary of Georgian independence, the Georgian Association in the USA is organizing an Advocacy Day in Washington DC on June 4th, 2013.

During the day-long event, the participants in the Advocacy Day will meet with members of the US administration, members of congress, as well as staffers of the key committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The meetings will address the critical policy issues related to the US interests in the Caucasus, such as the territorial integrity and national security of Georgia, and the acceleration of Georgia’s integration into Transatlantic security and economic institutions. The Georgian Association will supply the participants with briefing materials.

At the end of the Advocacy Day the participants will have an opportunity to attend the Independence Day Reception hosted by the Embassy of Georgia.

We encourage your active participation in this important event. The voice of Georgian Americans is important for keeping the US Foreign policy focused on Georgia and Georgia-related issues. Please, confirm your participation by no later than May 15. Unfortunately, the Georgian Association will not be able to cover the costs related to your travel and accommodation. Please, invite and communicate this information to those who may be interested.

Sincerely, Mamuka Tsereteli, President
Nino Aduashvili, Executive Director

The Georgian Association in the United States of America celebrated its 80th anniversary

The celebration took place at St. Regis Washington D.C. and brought together many distinguished guests. Among them were the association Board members and officers, the Georgian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan, the former American ambassadors to Georgia, Richard Miles and John Bass, friends of Georgia representing different ethnic communities, representatives of diplomatic community. The anniversary reception, which was co-hosted by the America-Georgia Business Council, followed the 15th annual conference of the Business Council held earlier that day. The attendees of the Business Council conference, including the Georgian Minister of agriculture Mr.Kirvalidze also participated in the event. The guest honor of the anniversary celebration was United States Senator of Indiana, Richard Lugar. The Georgian Association presented Senator Lugar with an award for his unwavering support of Georgia. Nino Japaridze, the board member and former president of the association, opened the formal part of the reception with a speech of thanksgiving. Mamuka Tsereteli, the president of the association, then presented the Senator with a painting by a Georgian-American artist Nana Bagdavadze. Dr. Tsereteli thanked Senator Lugar and emphasized the symbolic nature of the painting.

Painting represents Cross, symbolizing faith and spiritual past of Georgia. Cross is painted with the DNA spirals, that symbolizes common nature and origin of all human beings, and DNA spirals are constructed with molecules that have shape of grapes, that is symbol of both spirituality, but also optimism and abundance. Nothing can have better representation of our gratitude for Senator Lugar for his service to his country, and for his support to free and democratic Georgia” Said Mr. Tsereteli. Senator Lugar responded with a speech of appreciation. Before leaving, he personally thanked the wounded Georgian soldiers for their service.The guests enjoyed the rest of the celebration and the many great Georgian wines provided by the Georgian Wine House of the Greater Washington.