As President Obama prepared to sign the final paperwork for New START today, Georgian Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri publicly praised the treaty and the U.S.-Russia reset at a breakfast with reporters.
“Whatever makes Russia more civilized, we’ll be happy to see,” said Gilauri. “And I think this move by President Obama was to make Russia more civilized.”
The prime minister also seemed satisfied with the small victories Georgia has achieved so far. For example, he noted that, despite the reset, President Obama has voiced his disapproval of the Russian occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
“The whole world right now admits that the Russian forces in Georgia are occupying forces,” he said. “And occupation cannot last long.”
Some foreign-policy experts have been critical of the U.S.’s position on Russia’s occupation of Georgia, saying that the Obama administration has offered lip service and little else.
“Beyond symbolism and semantics … the change does not seem to reflect any pro-active U.S. policy to reverse Russia’s conquests,” Jamestown Foundation senior fellow Vladimir Socor wrote in the Eurasia Daily Monitor last summer, in reference to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of the term “occupation” to describe the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
But Georgia’s praise of New START and the reset shows that the country is eager to do what it can to prove itself a reliable ally of the U.S. — in contrast to its unpredictable neighbor.
“We feel like the leaders of democracy and western values in that part of the world,” said Gilauri.
New START is expected to take effect on Feb. 5, when Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exchange ratification documents at a security conference in Munich.