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Public Statements

Russia

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, in August of 2008, Russia and the Republic of Georgia engaged in what author Ronald Asmus called ``A Little War That Shook the World.'' And, Mr. Speaker, it did shake the world. For all of post-Soviet Russia's anti-democratic crackdowns, its aggressive and bellicose actions toward former Soviet states, it was still a shock to see Russian tanks roll across the border of a sovereign, democratic country. The military conflict lasted 5 days; and a shaken world moved on, soon forgetting the shock and outrage of what happened.

But for the people of the Republic of Georgia, this conflict goes on nearly 3 years later. They live with the tragic consequences that follow any armed conflict, including thousands of displaced persons and significant economic hardships. Beyond the human cost, they face a long-term strategic challenge of an occupying force in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia where Russia continues to violate the terms of the ceasefire to which it agreed.

As occupiers, they violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent democratic state, one that has chosen a path toward integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions and, more important, one that has chosen integration with Euro-Atlantic values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Russia's recalcitrance has left the region in a bitter stalemate as it flouts international norms and its own commitments. Within the context of this stalemate, the temperature has seemed to cool, with bitter hardship and frustrations supplanting heated military conflict.

But that cooling temperature is perhaps a very dangerous illusion. While the fear of overt military action may be waning, more subversive--but just as potentially deadly--action is taking place. Since 2009, the Republic of Georgia has experienced 12 acts or attempted acts of terrorism within its borders, which the Georgians believe are linked to Russian forces.

One such bombing, on September 22, 2010, took place right near the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi. Two thwarted attacks took place just this month. One improvised explosive device was intercepted on June 2, two days before several colleagues and I arrived in Tbilisi. Another was intercepted on June 6 while we were still there.

We had the opportunity to discuss with President Saakashvili at length the nature of these attacks and attempted attacks. He and his administration are increasingly concerned about what they perceive to be a systematic effort to target the Georgian people and undermine their progress toward a peaceful, stable, democratic and independent nation. The intended targets of recent bombing attempts seem to suggest an increased focus on civilian casualties, which is particularly troubling.

As investigations proceed to determine the exact origin and intent of these bombings, it is more important than ever that we stand with our Georgian friends; that we stand with their right to sovereignty and territorial integrity; that we stand with their efforts to build a stronger democracy. In fact, the purpose of my recent trip to Tbilisi was to continue the work of the House Democracy Partnership, which has a longstanding program with the Georgian legislature.

My co-chairman, David Price, and I have led a number of delegations to Tbilisi and hosted many Georgian legislators in Washington in order to provide training and support as they build their legislative institutions.

It is important to work with new and reemerging democracies as they grow and develop, but it is all the more essential for us to support those who are under attack for the very reason that they have chosen their democratic path.

The Obama administration has attempted to reset relations with Russia for a number of pragmatic and strategic reasons. I believe they were right to do so. But it is important to differentiate those relationships which are important for inescapable geopolitical considerations, and those which are based on shared values and goals. As a major international player and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, we must engage constructively with Russia, but that does not mean we must turn a blind eye to its tactics or strategic aims towards the former Soviet sphere. To the contrary, we must engage with eyes wide open.

Georgia is not the only state to have emerged from the Soviet orbit with democratic intentions, only to face deliberate, significant pressures and obstacles from Moscow.

The nature of our engagement with Russia will get more scrutiny than ever as Moscow moves toward entry into the World Trade Organization. Bringing them into a rules-based trading system will help us deal with the challenges that we face, but we cannot lose our resolve to address these challenges, or lose sight of the fact that the fate of democracy in the post-Soviet world is one of them. Those who are working diligently against great odds to build democratic institutions must know that the American people stand with them.


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