SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, everyone. It’s my pleasure to be with you here today. Mr. Prime Minister, you’re concluding a week of travel here across the United States. You told me you’re headed to the great state of Texas after this. I’m only sorry you’re not headed to Kansas, my home state. Next trip.
PRIME MINISTER BAKHTADZE: Sorry.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Look, Georgia is home to an ancient culture and a proud people. Its history has played out against an incredible backdrop – the tall peaks of the Caucasus Mountains and the shores of the Black Sea. In the center of its capital city, Tbilisi, is the statue of St. George famously slaying the dragon. The monument shows who Georgians truly are: fearless and undaunted.
We’ve seen proof of that character ever since we signed the U.S.-Georgia Charter on the Strategic Partnership. And this year marks a decade, 10 years – a 10-year anniversary of that document. In the time since, our nations have collaborated closely on issues that range from defense and security, to trade and energy, to strengthening democracy and expanding opportunities for cultural exchange as well. Throughout this decade, Georgia has shown tremendous resolve in the wake of the 2008 unlawful Russian invasion of part of its territory. Today it remains an international tourist destination, an important strategic partner for the United States, and a contributor to global security.
In light of my conversation today with the prime minister, I’m pleased to announce that we’re issuing a joint declaration that will commemorate this 10th anniversary of the charter which I mentioned.
The declaration outlines the future direction of our relationship – one we hope will continue to be defined by a close friendship and a broad series of shared commitments.
Georgia’s leadership role as an aspiring NATO ally is just one reason we’re so enthusiastic to work together. President Trump has called for all nations to do more to resolve global challenges, and Georgia is doing just that in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
Even as we speak, 32 brave Georgian soldiers know that they have given their all while serving alongside Americans there, and 870 Georgian soldiers serve in support of NATO’s mission there.
Beyond Afghanistan, Georgia is working to make sure its forces can integrate seamlessly with NATO’s. Further progress on that score will serve our strategic purposes as well, as the Alliance continues its cooperation with Georgia in the Black Sea region.
Georgia’s efforts give me great confidence to speak for President Trump, and all of the United States Government, when I say that you will continue to have the support of the United States as you seek to become a NATO member.
It’s also important to note that Georgia is already at 2 percent of their GDP being spent on defense – the NATO threshold that we have pushed all NATO allies to achieve. It knows firsthand from experience why deterrence matters, why strong defense matters, why capabilities are of the highest importance: Georgia has fought to maintain its territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression, and Russia’s unlawful occupation of the Georgian territory, and its failure to adhere to ceasefire obligations.
Russia’s belligerence is just one reason we’re proud of our military to support to the Georgia Defense Readiness Program. We are helping train and equip a self-sufficient force that will ensure Georgia’s territorial defense.
And this in turn, too, will provide greater security for the region as a whole – which is good for Georgia, good for the United States, and good for the entire world.
It’s important that everyone recognize, too, that our relationship goes much deeper than this through these security issues. In our conversation today, I encouraged Georgia’s ongoing effort to improve its judicial system, and to make sure its democracy includes free and fair elections.
The prime minister and I also had the chance to discuss Georgia’s parliament’s responsibility to make sure government agencies act lawfully and deliver what they promise to their citizens.
Finally, I communicated our hope that Georgia completes the port project. The project and others will enhance Georgia’s relationship with free economies and prevent Georgia from falling prey to Russian or Chinese economic influence. Those pretended friends do not have Georgia’s best interests at heart.
Georgia’s growth as a free nation after nearly a century of Soviet communism proves it’s on the right track. We’re proud to be a good partner for them.
We have to keep working together to guard against the risk that these hard-won gains will be lost, and to ensure that Georgia has a continued future anchored firmly in the West.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for being with me today. Thank you for joining our team. Thank you for you and Georgia being a good friend and partner to the United States of America.
Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER BAKHTADZE: Mr. Secretary, thank you for the warm welcome and continuing support of Georgia. It is good to be back in Washington, especially to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership.
In 2008, Russia invaded and subsequently has occupied the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. Since that crisis, Georgia and the U.S. created a platform for rebuilding Georgia, strengthening institutions, developing democracy and the rule of law, and increasing military cooperation and people-to-people contacts between our nations.
Georgia’s many accomplishments are a direct result of the success of U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership, which we celebrate today some 10 years after it was launched. Over the last decade, we have developed dynamic, comprehensive cooperation with the United States and our ties have grown to all-time high under President Trump’s administration. I would like to highlight some of the accomplishments that we have achieved together.
First and foremost, the level of security coordination between U.S. and Georgia has never been stronger. Georgia is America’s loyal partner in the global stage. Our friendship is time-tested and our bonds are forged in combat. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. and NATO allies in Afghanistan, where Georgia is one of the largest troop contributors to the Resolute Support Mission.
We are committed to continuing our significant contribution to shared Euro-Atlantic security. Georgia, with its expanded interoperability with NATO and defense spending – 2 percent of our GDP – has all the practical tools to prepare for membership of the North Atlantic Alliance. We are grateful for the support of the United States on Georgia’s NATO integration path. Our defense cooperation helped Georgia to modernize its armed forces and build deterrence capabilities. We deeply appreciate the U.S. commitment to the Georgia Defense Readiness Program and other U.S.-Georgia bilateral activities, which are essential for strengthening Georgia’s territorial defense and resilience capabilities. We highly value the United States’ unwavering support of Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. In response to continuous occupation and the grave humanitarian and security situation in the Russian-occupied regions, we made – we remain committed to peaceful conflict resolution.
Within a comprehensive peace policy and with the strong support of the U.S., Georgia implements peace initiatives such as A Step to a Better Future, a program that promotes reconciliation and engagement with Georgian citizens residing in occupied regions. Georgia unilaterally has reaffirmed the non-use-of-force commitment. We call on Russia to reciprocate and fulfill its obligation under the August 2008 ceasefire agreement.
Today, Georgia is a stable democracy with strong state institutions, with a growing and attractive economy and vibrant civil society. Georgia is widely considered as a top (inaudible) country in the region and beyond. We strive to become the gold standard in ease of doing business and legal transparency. Investment flows to opportunity where the barriers are lowest. Georgia has one of the lowest tax rates in the world. It is rated as number seven in economic freedom, and we are rated on the – on one of the top 20 European countries in the Rule of Law Index. We are grateful for your engagement in the reform process and proudly share the credit for our success with the United States.
Economic cooperation continues to increase as trade between our two nations continues to grow. We are proud that nearly 200 American companies are now operating in Georgia. Georgia provides a unique gateway where American companies can conveniently and quickly reach European and Asian growing markets. We hope that our strategic partnership with the United States will lead us to a unique model of trade cooperation. This will be a next logical step that will open enormous opportunities for the American business interests in our region.
In addition to our vital work here in Washington, an essential part of my trip to the U.S. is to bolster Georgia’s economy. We must have a strong national economy to match our strong national security. To that end, I met with potential investors and corporate partners in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Seattle, and I’m headed to Dallas later this week, and during my next visit I will definitely visit your great state.
In productive discussions, we explored how we can advance trade and investments in Georgia. At every stop my message is clear: Georgia is open for business and we welcome our American friends to see the opportunities that are existing in Georgia. We want more investment, more trade, and more of the U.S. in Georgia.
Mr. Secretary, our partnership is rock solid, rooted in shared values and mutual interests. We have a common strategic vision to strengthen this unique partnership and will dedicate ourselves to a full-fledged alliance for decades to come.
Thank you. Didi madloba.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Great. Thank you all.
PRIME MINISTER BAKHTADZE: Thank you.