Joe Biden travels to Georgia to affirm US support

Author: AP

Biden will hold two days of talks with President Mikhail Saakashvili and
opposition leaders to demonstrate US support for Georgia, a loyal ally
concerned about Washington’s efforts to court the Kremlin.

The Russia-Georgia war capped years of increasing tensions between the West
and Russia, a country key to US and European efforts to halt the spread of
nuclear weapons, battle terrorism and secure Europe’s energy supplies.

Biden’s trip comes just a few weeks after President Barack Obama’s summit in
Moscow and amid increasing concern among some of Russia’s East European
neighbors that warming relations between the US and Russia might leave them
out in the cold.

He will arrive from Ukraine, another former Soviet nation looking to
strengthen ties to the US and Europe.

Saakashvili and Biden will attend ceremonies tonight, including a banquet
where both will exchange toasts, a ritual of hospitality that Georgians have
turned into an art form.

On Thursday, Biden will hold formal discussions with Saakashvili, whose
government was shaken this spring by mass street demonstrations demanding
his resignation. The vice president will also meet with leading members of
the opposition.

Political foes blame Saakashvili for the August war’s disastrous results and
accuse him of riding roughshod over democratic rights.

Saakashvili has said he tried to defend Georgia from Russian aggression, and
he announced a series of political reforms Monday meant to address his
critics’ complaints that his administration was restricting rights.

After Georgia used military force to try to seize a breakaway region from
Moscow-backed separatists in August, Russia sent tanks and warplanes deep
into Georgian territory, crushing the country’s army.

The conflict ended hopes in the West that Russia, after recovering from the
economic and social turmoil of the post-Soviet era, would become a docile,
democratic member of the club of European nations.

Instead, Russia has tried to reclaim its historic role as an assertive
regional power with global ambitions.

Shortly after the Georgian war, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared
that Moscow has a “zone of privileged interests” among former Soviet and
Eastern European satellites.

The US and Europe have rejected sphere-of-influence geopolitics, which give
great powers sway over their smaller neighbors. And they show no signs of
backing down.

Neither do they seem willing to risk a confrontation with Russia on the issue.

The US has pledged to support NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. But
Germany and other European member states are skeptical.

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