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Diplomacy in Action

Czech and Georgian Bilateral Meetings

Special Briefing
Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York, NY
September 21, 2009


MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Good evening. Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Phil Gordon is here to give a readout of the Secretary’s meeting with the Czech foreign minister, as well as her meeting today with the Georgian president and the foreign minister as well. He’ll give some brief remarks and then take your questions. We have about 20 minutes.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Okay. Very briefly, and then I’ll just take questions. The Secretary met with the Czech Foreign Minister Kohout, obviously.

QUESTION: Could you speak up? I’m sorry.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Sorry about that. I’m starting with the meeting with the Czech Foreign Minister Kohout. And not surprisingly, the core of the session was about missile defense. The Czech foreign minister explained that he respected and understood the decision of the United States to move forward in a different way. And the Secretary underscored why we think that that’s a better plan. And also they agreed that the Czech Republic would have opportunities to be involved in the plan.

So in no way – I think it’s fair to say there’s a consensus – is this about walking away from any countries, or indeed, walking away from missile defense. It’s about doing missile defense better in a way that’ll get it up and working sooner, in a way that will cover more countries, in a way that will be more flexible, and in a way that will continue to involve many of our close allies, including the Czech Republic. And I think it is important to underscore that the Czechs understand that aspect of it as well.

They talked about the fact that missile defense is not and should not be seen as the defining issue in the relationship. The Czech Republic is an important European partner in democracy, a NATO ally that does a lot of things, and we have a political and economic relationship that isn’t and shouldn’t be simply defined on one issue or one piece of hardware. She also thanked the Czech foreign minister for their participation in Afghanistan.

Now, you want me to just go on to Saakashvili and we do it all together, rather than pausing?

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Okay. The Secretary had a meeting with Georgian President Saakashvili. She emphasized the United States’ ongoing and strong continued support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and our view that Russia should implement the terms of the ceasefire agreements of last August and September the previous year.

She also made clear our view that there’s not a short-term fix to the problems of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as much as we want Russian troops to leave those territories as soon as possible, but that the best way forward would be one of strategic patience whereby Georgia shows itself to be an attractive place, a stronger, democratic --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


We would – it would be nice if this problem could be fixed immediately, but it can’t be. And instead, the way forward is, as I was saying, for Georgia to become a prosperous, strong, democratic, attractive place.

The Secretary made clear that the United States does not and will not recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and made clear to the Georgians that we would continue to work with other members of the international community so that other countries wouldn’t recognize as well. As you know, as of now beyond Russia, it is Nicaragua and Venezuela, the only countries in the world that have recognized.

The Secretary also underscored the importance of democracy and welcomed the progress Georgia has made in strengthening its democracy, and encouraged President Saakashvili to continue in that direction. Again, it’s part of the same overall approach to make Georgia a stronger, more attractive place and better partner of the West. We think it should continue down the road of democratization, including in the areas of judiciary, media, electoral reform, and so on.

That’s really the essence of it, I think. And I look forward to your questions about the meeting.

QUESTION: Well, you seem to emphasize kind of strong, prosperous, democratic (inaudible) several times, indicating that you don’t think it’s that right now. So could you talk (inaudible) use specifics about what more you’d like to see them do to become that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think it is clear both that Georgia has come an awful long way since the Rose Revolution in terms of becoming, strong, prosperous, and democratic, but also that it has more work to do. That was one of the messages that the Vice President, when he went to Georgia, carried to the Georgians and to the world.

President Saakashvili explained how much progress they had made. Indeed, when you look at factors of economic development and foreign direct investment and corruption, Georgia has really made remarkable strides. And that is important to recognize and we do recognize it, especially given where Georgia was, not just at the end of the Soviet Union, but even at the time of the Rose Revolution, on scores of foreign direct investment, corruption, and media freedom was well behind.

So there is no question that they’ve made important progress. But it’s also quite clear that they have further to go. And there are specific areas of reform, some of which have been put forward by the government but not yet implemented, on changing the electoral code, strengthening the parliament, allowing for more media freedom. Those are the areas – a more independent judiciary – those are the areas where the Secretary encouraged President Saakashvili to make further progress.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: She mentioned judiciary specifically and electoral code specifically, yes.

QUESTION: What was his response to this rather novel concept of strategic patience that you just mentioned? It seems to me to be shorthand for doing absolutely nothing, trying to make the Russians happy, just as many people saw the missile defense decision, rightly or wrongly. Is he happy with the idea of strategic patience?

QUESTION: Yeah. What is strategic patience?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: It is – I think the Georgian president made clear that they understand that the basic principle there is that there’s not a short-term or a military fix to this problem and it would be a strategic mistake to seek one. And when you ask what they think of that, you can ask them, but I think it --

QUESTION: Well, the last time around it didn’t go so well. But I’m trying to figure out what he said – when she said to him the idea is to do nothing strategic --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, she didn’t say the idea is to do nothing. Let’s be absolutely clear about that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, she said to be patient.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No, what she said is that we do not and will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We do believe that Russia should implement the conditions of the August and September ceasefires of 2008. And that means, in specific, reducing Russian troops to the position – pulling back Russian troops to the positions they were before the ceasefire. So those are very specific things that we want to see Russia do right now.

Then she went on to make clear that we believe the best way to achieve our common goal of seeing Abkhazia and South Ossetia not only not recognized by others, but integrated into Georgia, which she made clear was our goal, was to strengthen Georgia as a more attractive place, as a magnet for these people to come back to Georgia. That’s what that is a reference to. And I don’t think the Georgians have a different view of that.

QUESTION: Why shouldn’t one regard it as – even if it’s not doing nothing, why shouldn’t one regard this as almost acquiescence in a reality that is clearly most unpleasant to the Georgians?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, we certainly haven’t acquiesced to the notion of independence. We have taken very active measures to avoid it, not only in our own decision not to recognize, but we are active with the rest of the international community to make sure that others don’t recognize. And as I say, I think we’ve had pretty good success on that score. Despite Russian pressure around the world to win over more recognition, as I said, 99 percent of the international community does not recognize. And we are working with our Georgian friends to avoid that outcome.

And in that sense, Russia hasn’t – you sometimes hear the phrase about getting away with it. Well, they haven’t succeeded. I think they hoped and expected to be much further along in terms of recognitions, and that – and it hasn’t happened.

QUESTION: Well, but Georgia would like to be – would like to be further along on, like, MAP and some of the other things that they wanted to be integrated into the kind of NATO structures (inaudible) the West and all this stuff. And I mean, it seems as if part of strategic patience doesn’t only apply to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also to NATO and all these other things, that, kind of, Georgia is biding its time and --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think we have been as engaged, as – and active as you can be in working with Georgia on a whole range of issues. So – and you can take the billion dollars in assistance that helped save the Georgian economy, and that the Congress only recently approved the final tranche of, which is a very, very important not just symbol, but measure by the United States to strengthen Georgia and its independence and its prosperity.

We launched – in the very end of the Bush Administration, they signed a declaration on strategic partnership, a charter, with Georgia about how we work together in democracy, security, and all the rest. And we, the Obama Administration, picked up on that, had the first meeting of the commissions as part of that council when the Georgians came to Washington a couple of months ago. We’re going to do the next round in Georgia. The Vice President traveled out to Georgia to demonstrate our support. As I said, we’ve been very active on the diplomatic front in terms of recognitions.

In terms of – you mentioned MAP and NATO – the previous administration and all of the NATO allies agreed to set up a NATO-Georgia Commission, which will meet twice a year. And we’ve actively pursued that as well, as the agreement where – on which there was consensus among NATO as the mechanism for NATO-Georgia relations.

So I think when you take all of that together, it’s hardly sitting around and just hoping and in any way leaving Georgia on its own. I think it’s – when you add it up, it’s a very active policy by the Administration to stand by our friends in Georgia and their independence.

QUESTION: That’s it?



QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I’ve never heard this concept before. Is it old and I’m just missing out on it?

QUESTION: What, strategic patience?



QUESTION: I think you could use it on a lot of – in a lot of countries. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, no. Is it – does it have some kind of history, or has it just been invented for Georgia and this –


QUESTION: It’s a new Obama Administration –


QUESTION: Well, I know. But I mean, you know, sometimes you hear this dialogue and blah, blah, blah, you know --

QUESTION: Creative ambiguity --

QUESTION: Yeah, exactly.

QUESTION: I mean, this is a new – is this the new concept that you guys are (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No, I wouldn’t – you can look if it’s been used in other contexts. I think it --

QUESTION: I think it has been used.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: And by the way, it’s a small s and a small p. I mean, not – this is not a doctrine or anything. It’s a description of (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Gordon --

QUESTION: The Obama Administration. Strategic patience.

QUESTION: Strategic patience.

QUESTION: Can I ask one thing?


QUESTION: Just to clarify, the Czech part, where you agreed the Czech Republic would have ways to be involved in the plan.


QUESTION: Was there anything more specific than that? I know the Secretary referred to R&D in the speech, but –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No, that’s to be determined. The point is that there are a lot of elements of the way forward that need to be fleshed out, and it’s something that we will take our time in close engagement with the governments involved and figure out the best way to do that.

QUESTION: So, basically, I mean, you would say that they have calmed down since, like, the initial kind of – the statements that came out right after the phone call where –


QUESTION: I mean, the temperature is dropping, right?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: This is the Czech Republic you’re talking about?


ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: There were different statements in the initial phase. What – some were upset about it in the media, others welcomed it and got it from the start. But yes, I think I can say that as to the meeting with the foreign minister – others can speak for themselves – but the foreign minister and the Czech Republic respect and understand the decision. And I think in the fullness of time, more and more people will come to see that it’s just that; it’s a better way of doing missile defense. It’s not scrapping missile defense. It’s a better way of doing it. And it’s not walking away from any allies. It is working with allies in different ways.

QUESTION: Did they spell out the kind of concerns they had from Russia following this agreement to change the approach to missile defense?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, the Secretary had the opportunity – I’m glad you raised that, because it is an important point. The Secretary did have the opportunity to underscore that the decision wasn’t about Russia; the decision was about how best to protect America and its allies and deployed American forces, and that’s what drove the decision to the place it ended up. So people will be watching the Russian reaction to this for some time, but that wasn’t the factor in the original decision.

QUESTION: I’m just curious what concerns they aired to you about how the Russians might behave in the future, just because they had done this deal with the Bush Administration.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Yeah. As I say, I think they’re comfortable with the decision and the way forward.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) 9,000 American (inaudible). (Laughter.) It dates back to – it dates back to Kosovo –pre-Kosovo, Iran, Iraq.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Right. I mean, how about technical impatience? (Laughter.) Is that --

QUESTION: The Georgians have tried that.


QUESTION: Only 1,700 (inaudible).

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: You can characterize what you want, but that was, as I say, a small s and a small p way of suggesting that.

We’re good?

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you. Good to see you guys.

PRN: 2009/T12-5

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