The FINANCIAL -- On October 22, the United States House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan Georgia Support Act, a bill “to support the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Georgia, and for other purposes.”
The bill, initially introduced in the House in January, 2019 by the co-chairs of the Congressional Georgia Caucus Gerald Connolly (Dem.) and Adam Kinzinger (Rep.), is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 30 lawmakers.
Outlining the U.S. policy towards the country, Georgia Support Act reads that the U.S., among others, supports “continued development of democratic values in Georgia, including free and fair elections, public sector transparency and accountability, the rule of law, and anticorruption efforts.”
It also supports Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic and European integration, as well as “the right of the people of Georgia to freely determine their future and make independent and sovereign choices on foreign and security policy, including regarding their country’s relationship with other nations and international organizations, without interference, intimidation, or coercion by other countries.”
Supporting Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, the bill condemns “ongoing detentions, kidnappings, and other human rights violations committed in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia forcibly occupied by the Russian Federation, including the recent killings of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, and Davit Basharuli.”
The Georgia Support Act also calls for peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia, “including by urging” the Russian Federation to fully implement the European Union-mediated ceasefire agreement of August 12, 2008, and supporting the establishment of international security mechanisms in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia as well as “the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, all of which are important for lasting peace and security on the ground.”
In its assistance provisions, the bipartisan bill refers to a wide area of the U.S.-Georgia relations, including security and cybersecurity.
In particular, the Act requests from the Secretary of State and other relevant bodies to submit to the House and the Senate a report reviewing U.S. security assistance to Georgia, that among others includes “an assessment of Georgia’s capabilities to defend itself, including a five-year strategy to enhance Georgia’s deterrence, resilience, and self-defense capabilities.”
It also aims to “enhance the capabilities of Georgia to combat Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns intended to undermine the sovereignty and democratic institutions of Georgia, while promoting the freedom of the press.”
According to the bill, the U.S. Trade Representative “should make progress toward negotiations with Georgia to enter a bilateral free trade agreement” as well.
In its sanctions provisions, the Georgia Support Act envisages the U.S. President to impose sanctions on a foreign person, “based on credible information, that such foreign person, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act is responsible for, complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing the commission of serious human rights abuses” in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.
Georgian officials have welcomed passing the bipartisan bill. Prime Minister Giogri Gakharia wrote on his official Twitter account late last night that the Georgia Support Act “represents the first standalone legislation related to Georgia dedicated to taking our partnership to the next level.”
He then noted that the Georgia Support Act “significantly strengthens defense, economic, and cyber security ties between Georgia and the U.S. “Closer partnership with the U.S. will help create more jobs, build a strong middle class, and maintain sustainable security in Georgia,” PM Gakharia added.
Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani also tweeted that “with Georgia Support Act, the U.S. Congress demonstrated it’s clear bipartisan support to strengthen strategic partnership.” “We are determined to work with the main strategic partner to advance U.S.-Georgia relations to higher level in all fields,” FM Zalkaliani stated.
According to President Salome Zurabishvili, the passing of the Georgia Support Act “is a historic reminder” that the U.S. is “one of Georgia’s closest allies and most reliable partner.”