In a speech to the Parliament in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi yesterday, Biden also assured the audience that a reset of U.S.-Russian relations would not come at the expense of Georgia, a former Soviet satellite that became embroiled in a five-day conflict with Russia last August.
“We understand that Georgia aspires to join NATO. We fully support that aspiration,” Biden said to applause. “And, members of Parliament, we will work to help you meet the standards of NATO membership.”
Biden’s backing of Georgia’s NATO hopes echoes the support voiced by the alliance at an April 2008 summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, when member nations promised that Georgia eventually would join the organization.
The vice president’s pledge comes at a time when President Barack Obama’s administration is seeking to “push the reset button” with Russia, which saw its relations with NATO strained after last year’s conflict with Georgia. Tension continues to surround two disputed enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia along the Georgia-Russia border — flashpoints of the August war — with Moscow last month ordering international peacekeepers to leave the provinces.
With NATO membership contingent on states resolving their border disputes, Biden cautioned Tbilisi against renewed fighting with Russia as its means for reclaiming the breakaway regions. He added that the United States does not recognize the provinces as independent states, and he urged the world to disregard their statements of independence.
“It is a sad certainty, but it is true there is no military option to reintegration,” he said, adding that reintegration would be achieved by “showing those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia a Georgia where they can be free and their communities can flourish — where they can enjoy autonomy within a federal system of government, where life can be so much better for them than it is now.”
“Show them the real benefits of your nation’s motto,” he said. “Strength is in unity.”
Georgia is one of the world’s largest per capita recipients of American aid, and received $1 billion from the United States last year. Biden praised a charter signed last month by the United States and Georgia that will modernize Georgia’s military and increasing the two countries’ defense and security partnership.
“These partnerships are not being built against anyone,” Biden said. “They are being built to the benefit of everyone who seeks a more democratic, prosperous and secure world.”