‘The Kremlin wants Georgia to fail or abandon its European path’

Kelly C. Degnan United States Ambassador to Georgia


 February 13, 2023

in Featured, INTERVIEW

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC: What are the prospects of cooperation between the U.S. and Georgia? 

A. We are extremely proud of the 30-year foundation that is the U.S-Georgian partnership. This is a friendship based on mutual respect, shared values, and concrete results that have benefited the people of Georgia and improved Georgia’s security, economy, and democracy.

U.S. support has developed from purely humanitarian aid when Georgia regained independence into a mutually beneficial, robust, strategic partnership that helps build Georgia’s democratic institutions, stimulate and diversify its economy, and strengthen Georgia’s security and defense.

We see so many more opportunities for continued partnership, and we hear from our Georgia partners that they would like to expand and deepen our cooperation. Our goals are the same as those of Georgia’s citizens, who have made a clear choice for a Euro-Atlantic future in the EU and NATO.

They know that is the path to greater security, stability, prosperity, and freedom for Georgia. The United States remains committed to helping the people of Georgia achieve their goals.

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC:  What are the main obstacles in concluding free trade agreement between our countries?

A. The United States Trade Representative examines prospects for Free Trade Agreements very closely. As we understand, Georgia is being evaluated, along with a number of other countries.

For our part, we continue to support Georgia’s economic growth and diversification to help it become more independent and reduce its dependency on Russia for energy and other trade. We support Georgian vocational education to help ensure businesses have the skilled employees they need, and students have good jobs and rewarding careers when they complete school. The United States funds several programs across the country that help generate high-paying jobs for Georgians through vocational and university programs. We agree that education is the foundation Georgia needs to build businesses that flourish, develop ports and infrastructure to make Georgia into an important East-West hub, and create STEM-related programs that make the most of the people of Georgia.

‘Euro-Atlantic integration is the best way for Georgia to counter the Kremlin and preserve its sovereignty and freedom as an independent nation. 

The FINANCIALDIPLOMATIC: Did the developments in Ukraine change the volume of security and defense assistance provided by U.S. to Georgia?

A. Our robust defense and security cooperation with Georgia has long been central to our strong partnership, and Georgia has made significant progress improving its capacity to defend its borders and deter Russian aggression over the last few decades.
We are currently cooperating on a five-year bilateral program, the Georgian Defense and Deterrence Enhancement Initiative, which will help Georgia to modernize its forces and become more interoperable with their NATO partners.

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC: What can be done to make Georgia attractive for U.S. investors?

A. American investors are interested in learning more about opportunities in Georgia. A key pre-requisite for foreign direct investment is political and economic stability. For Georgia, this “stability” means independent, transparent institutions and policies that help ensure a level playing field for business. Fulfilling the European Commission’s 12 priorities would send an important message that Georgia’s government is committed to creating and sustaining a predictable, reliable, fair businessenvironment. These are clear, achievable steps that Georgia can take to strengthen its attractiveness to U.S. and other foreign investors. The people of Georgia have made a clear choice for a European future in the EU and NATO because that is the path to prosperity and stability. The United States will continue our efforts to assist Georgia in achieving its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, as we have for the past 30 years.

Investors also need to know they will be able to resolve any disputes that arise quickly and fairly, without regard to political or other connections. Georgia has already made good progress by making it easy for foreigners to open businesses, in a business environment with low levels of petty corruption. However, investors also need to feel confident the law will be applied equally to protect their investment and provide timely, fair resolution of disputes. That is one reason we work closely with the judiciary on reforms to improve the courts’ efficiency and transparency. Investors want to invest their funds where they can have confidence in the rule of law.

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC: In which sectors of Georgian economy do American investors see the potential for investments?

A. We have recently seen unprecedented interest in Georgia from U.S. businesses and investors, particularly in logistics, energy, and IT sectors. The American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia would also be a good source of information on this topic.
We see Georgia’s enormous potential to develop its high value industries in agriculture, tourism, port and infrastructure development, and tech. Georgia also has the geography and demography to become an East-West transit, commerce, energy, and communications hub.

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC: Please evaluate current risks for Georgia in light of war in Ukraine.

A. Russia’s brutal, unprovoked war against Ukraine threatens peace and stability in the region and the world. The strong Western unity that we have seen since Russia’s reinvasion will be key to ending the war as soon as possible. Putin started this war with the goal of eliminating Ukraine’s sovereignty and national identity and re-establishing the Russian empire. Putin can stop the war today, but he chooses to continue his attacks on Ukrainian civilians, cities and infrastructure. The United States and our partners are doing everything we can to restore peace as quickly as possible.

The support Georgians have provided to the Ukrainian people shows that Georgians understand the pain and suffering of having Russian troops occupying your territory. The steps Georgians have taken to help Ukraine are deeply appreciated, especially when Russia continues to threaten Georgia’s sovereignty as well. Where Georgia could best thwart Russia’s malign influence is by uniting around achieving the goal of a European future. This includes bringing all stakeholders to the table and implementing the 12 priorities as recommended by the European Commission for Georgia to obtain EU candidate status, the next big step on the path to EU membership. No country has ever been invaded while it was a member of the EU. The Kremlin wants Georgia to fail or abandon its European path. Euro-Atlantic integration is the best way for Georgia to counter the Kremlin and preserve its sovereignty and freedom as an independent nation.

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC: What are your personal feelings about working in Georgia? Are you satisfied with all the work you did in Georgia?

A. Georgia is an amazing, welcoming country. It has been a true honor to represent the United States and the American people here for the last three years. When I arrived in early 2020, we could already look back on an impressive record of cooperation and concrete results that form the basis of our strategic partnership. My Embassy team and I are proud of our contributions to expand and deepen that partnership, and we are deeply grateful to all the Georgian men and women we have worked with to strengthen Georgia’s security and stability, develop and diversify the economy, and build independent, transparent democratic institutions. Everything the United States has done to support Georgia over the past 3 years – and the past 30 years – is tied to helping Georgians build a more secure, stable, prosperous and democratic Georgia.

Since 1992, the United States has provided more than $6 billion in assistance across multiple sectors to support Georgia’s democratic institutions, economic development, and defense and security capacity.

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC: What are the main changes you observed since you first came to Georgia?

A. I arrived as COVID-19 was forcing us all to change the way we engaged. Now that vaccines and other measures have allowed us to re-connect, I am amazed at the energy and enthusiasm the Georgian people have for building a strong, prosperous democracy and integrating with Europe and NATO. I can see now that what has not changed over the centuries is the people of Georgia’s longstanding and clear choice to live in a strong, stable democracy, with a flourishing economy, that is well-integrated among the Euro-Atlantic family of nations.

I was fortunate to spend the last year traveling throughout the country to celebrate the 30th anniversary of US-Georgia diplomatic relations and thank our wonderful Georgian partners for all we do together. Everywhere we went, we heard from Georgians who are interested in more engagement, more cooperation with America. As we look back on the thousands of people whose lives were positively changed by participating in U.S. programs over the past 30 years, I’m excited to get to work in 2023 on the new opportunities that await in the years to come.

The FINANCIAL DIPLOMATIC: Who is your hero of the year? 

A. There are so many to choose from: I would say that it’s a tie between the women of Iran, standing up for their rights and for freedom in the face of brutal repression and mortal danger; and the Ukrainian people, who are fighting so bravely for their homeland, their national identity, and their way of life.

Georgia is fortunate to have many “heroes” doing incredibly brave and selfless work to help their fellow citizens and improve their communities. If I had to choose just one, I would give that honor to the Public Defender’s Office led by Nino Lomjaria. She and her staff showed great courage in upholding their Constitutional obligation to protect human rights in Georgia. They made it clear through their tireless work, often on difficult and sensitive issues, that no voice is too small to be heard, and that Georgia’s democracy depends on preserving the independence of institutions like the Public Defender’s Office.

Since 1992, the United States has provided more than $6 billion in assistance across multiple sectors to support Georgia’s democratic institutions, economic development, and defense and security capacity. 

 During that period, U.S. provided nearly $3 million in support for cultural and heritage preservation in Georgia, including these projects:

Jvari Monastery: Preservation of the façade, Chubinashvili Center

Dadiani Palace: Rehabilitation of the Queen’s palace, implemented by the Art Palace

30th Anniversary Solidarity Concert:   Concert to celebrate the 30th anniversary of U.S.-Georgian diplomatic relations

Digitization of Historic Georgian Folk Music Recordings: Collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution and the Tbilisi Conservatoire to preserve around 400 hours of historic field records of traditional Georgian folk music and establish a preservation center within the Conservatoire.

Protecting the Intangible Cultural Heritage of South Ossetia:  A collaboration between the U.S.-based Penn Museum Culturel Heritage Center of the University of Pennsylvania and the Georgian National Committee of the Blue Shield to document the preserve the culture heritage of South Ossetia through engaging IDPs.

Digitization of Georgian Archives: There were two parts: first a collaboration with the University of Illinois to digitize and publicize the index of available materials to promote access and awareness of what is available. Second, a grant to the National Archives to help increase its capacity to digitize its records as well as to organize an exhibition about the U.S.’s long-standing support for Georgian statehood and the Georgian people.

Library of Congress Photo Exhibition at the National Photography Museum:  

An exhibition of historic photographs of the Caucasus from the Library of Congress’ archives that were printed and displayed in Georgia for the first time.

Repressed Writers Exhibition: A grant to the Writer’s House to develop an permanent exhibition on Georgian writer’s repressed during the Soviet occupation.

Promoting American Culture: Support to State 51 to highlight American sports and culture and to the American Culture Center project to develop a mobile museum of American History to educate and engage youth throughout Georgia. 

Protecting Bordjalou Carpet Weaving Traditions: Supporting the Caucasian Heritage Research Institute to document and protect the unique carpet weaving traditions of Kvemo Karti and Kakheti.


She chooses to make no reference to the poisoning and slow murder of poor Misha Saakashvili. Why?

From the FB page of Mikhail Saakashvili.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Mikheil Saakashvili’s health

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Mikheil Saakashvili’s health. Voting took place a few minutes ago. 577 deputies supported the resolution.

European Parliament urges Georgian government to release the third president of Georgia who is in prison.

According to the document, the European Parliament expresses serious concern over Saakashvili’s deteriorating health condition and the government’s inadequate response. Western politicians believe that Saakashvili’s case really reflects how committed the Dream Team is to Euro-Atlantic values.

The text clearly states that “The continuous failure to improve Mikheil Saakashvili’s condition continues to damage Georgia’s reputation and hinders the prospect of him accepting EU candidate status.”

The addressee of the European legislative body resolution is also the fifth president of Georgia.


When Misha was illegally held, he weighed 120 kilograms. He has been poisoned by heavy metals under putler’s orders and now weighs 67 kilograms. He is close to death.

Yet the US ambassador makes no mention of this in her interview.

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