Georgia is valued partner of NATO and US, Ambassador Degnan says

United States Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan and Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani held consultations with Assistant Secretary Karen Donfried on Friday “about efforts to respond to Russia’s aggressive actions.”

Ambassador Degnan said they discussed the high-level diplomacy that happened this week in Europe “as we work with all our Allies and partners to develop a united Euro-Atlantic response.”

US Ambassador noted that “Russia’s actions leave no doubt that the main threat to European security comes from the Kremlin, as it has for much of the past two decades.  Russia now is trying to reverse three decades of peace, stability, and economic growth by the threat of force.”

“Georgia knows Russia well from your long history of fighting to protect your independence. Georgia is a valued partner of NATO and the United States, and we will work together to respond to this crisis as we continue to build a Europe whole and free and at peace,” she stated.

“It is important to remember that this is a crisis created by the Kremlin.  It’s not clear why Russia is trying to de-stabilize European security – it might be to distract Russians from problems at home or to undermine NATO unity.  What is clear is that it is Russia that invaded sovereign nations like Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and Russia that has massed troops on Ukraine’s border in a threatening manner.

NATO was established 70 years ago as a defensive organization and seeks only peace and stability.  NATO has offered to sit down with Russia at the NATO-Russia council for years – that is what it was created for — but Russia has refused to participate.  If the Kremlin is serious about talking now, it should take steps to de-escalate the tensions that Russia itself has created.  As Secretary Blinkin said yesterday, if there is a challenge to European security, it is coming from Russia, not NATO.

Russia’s rhetoric cannot hide that Russia has invaded its neighbors – independent, sovereign nations — and has troops on territory in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova.

Russia has used chemical weapons against civilians and has targeted and assassinated people throughout Europe.

It is Russia that actively spews disinformation and lies, to divide and distract and sow confusion within Europe.

Despite Russia’s efforts now and over the years, Europe continues to stand united.  The United States, NATO, and European leaders affirmed our shared commitment to dialogue and diplomacy and noted that Russia needs to take concrete actions to de-escalate tensions if diplomacy is to succeed.

As we follow up this week’s high-level diplomacy, our actions will be guided by these key principles:

Decisions regarding NATO membership are up to each individual applicant country and the 30 NATO Allies.  No one else has a voice or a veto in those decisions.

We will not negotiate about Europe, without Europe. We will not negotiate about NATO, without NATO, and we will not negotiate about Georgia, without Georgia.

Countries have the sovereign right to choose their economic and security partners.

The basic principles of international law have brought the trans-Atlantic community more than 75 years of general peace and economic growth.  These are principles that Russia’s leaders have agreed to on many occasions.  President Putin’s attempts to replace that with Soviet-like domination, oppression and control must be firmly rejected by all of us,” Ambassador Degnan underscored.

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