TBILISI, GEORGIA – In Georgia on Thursday, US Vice President Joseph Biden was in Georgia reassured lawmakers that America supports the restoration of separatist territories Abkhazia and South Ossetia to the country – though only by peaceful means.
His visit comes nearly one year after the Georgian-Russian war over South Ossetia, which resulted in the displacement of some 30,000 people and Russia’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - Georgia’s separatist enclaves.
Many in Georgia have feared that warming relations between the US and Russia, with President Barack Obama visiting Moscow earlier this month, could embolden Russia in its efforts to whittle away at the size of its small neighbor and former possession.
Although Mr. Biden had visited Tbilisi during the war as senator and pledged $1 billion in aid, politicians here had felt in the dark about where the new US administration stood. Biden made it clear that whatever agreements the US makes with Russia will not be at the expense of Georgia.
“The US does not like what Russia did at all,” the vice president told a group of refugee children on Thursday.
In addition to reiterating US support for Georgia’s NATO aspirations and the nation’s territorial integrity, Biden also stressed that Abkhazia and South Ossetia can’t be regained by force and said that only a peaceful and prosperous Georgia could win them back into the national fold.
Biden also appeared to have some reassurances for Russia. He said the strategic partnership the US has with Georgia is not about creating a “sphere of influence in the region” but, rather, about securing Afghanistan (where Georgian troops serve) and protecting an energy corridor that passes through Georgia.
Biden noted “there is much more work to be done” when it comes to democracy in Georgia. The country’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has behaved in an increasingly authoritarian manner since his reelection in 2008.