Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

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Mr. Speaker, I believe that there was a time when we could honestly hope that Russia was playing a fair and supportive role with regard to the resolution of the separatist conflicts in the Republic of Georgia. Unfortunately, our optimism in that regard is almost exhausted. It now appears obvious that Russia seeks to play a destabilizing role in Georgia, with the goal of undermining Georgia's political and economic development and, ultimately, its own sovereignty.

Over several years Russia has reportedly supported the separatist forceswith arms and trained personnel. It has applied boycotts on Georgian goods and shut off energy supplies to Georgia. It has broadly granted Russian citizenship and issued Russian passports to people living in Georgia's separatist regions. It has provided economic subsidies to the separatist regions and granted residents of those regions the right to vote in Russian elections. Its so-called "peacekeeping" forces in the separatist regions appeared to have played a biased role in favor, of course, of the separatist regime. More recently, on April 16, the Kremlin issued a decree further expanding its "official" ties with the separatist regions.

Most objective observers would affirm that the Georgian Government has tried to be fair and open-minded in its efforts to negotiate a settlement in the separatist conflicts. One has to wonder, however, if sporadic and mysterious incidents involving small-scale attacks on Georgian territory and forces are meant to provoke the Georgian Government.

One such incident occurred on April 20. An unmanned and unarmed Georgian reconnaissance aircraft was shot down over Georgian territory, reportedly by a Russian MIG-29 fighter. Since neither Georgia nor the separatist regimes have MIG-29 jets among their forces, it seems difficult for Russia to deny its involvement.

Mr. Speaker, the Georgian people have made tremendous progress since the "Rose Revolution" of 2003. Georgia is not a perfect democracy, but it's heading in the right direction. It certainly compares very well with the trends in Russia, where a totalitarian regime is steadily being constructed once again.

Georgia deserves the support and encouragement of leading states of Europe and the support of the United States. Democracy and reform in Georgia will only succeed if the European Union, the leading states of Europe, and the United States remain engaged and strongly support it.

The resolution calls for the Kremlin to immediately revoke its decision to expand "official ties" with the separatist regions in Georgia. The resolution expresses strong support for the restoration of the territorial integrity of Georgia and for the peaceful resolution of conflicts within Georgia's borders. It also restates the declaration made by the NATO heads of state at the recent summit in Bucharest, Romania, in which they confidently stated their belief that the Republic of Georgia will become a member of NATO some day. And it urges NATO allies to favorably consider Georgia's application for admission in the Membership Action Plan, or MAP, during the NATO Ministers meeting this December, MAP being a program to simply help interested applicants for membership and prepare them to meet the standards required of all NATO allies.

Mr. Speaker, this resolution is intended to support the sovereignty of Georgia and support an end to any irresponsible actions by the Russian Government that undermine its sovereignty and the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the separatist conflicts in that country.

I note again as well that nothing stated in this resolution with regard to NATO and Georgia's interest in membership in that alliance is any different from what was stated