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American Forces Press Service

U.S. Will Continue to Support Georgia's Democracy, Bush Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2008 – The United States remains steadfast in its support of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, President Bush pledged to U.S. military veterans gathered in Orlando, Fla., today.

“The United States of America will continue to support Georgia’s democracy,” Bush vowed to Veterans of Foreign Wars members at their convention.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military “will continue to provide needed humanitarian aid to the Georgian people,” he said.

Russian troops have occupied the northern Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia for days since Russian troops and regional separatists joined forces to defeat Georgian troops during a series of battles that began Aug. 7.

France recently brokered a cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia, but the Russians have been slow to withdraw their troops from Georgian soil as agreed. Though the Russians have said they’ll pull out their troops, U.S. officials have noted, there’s been little evidence of that yet.

Bush repeatedly denounced Moscow’s military incursion into Georgia as “unacceptable in the 21st century.”

“South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, and the United States will work with our allies to ensure Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity,” Bush said in Orlando.

Georgia established a democratic government in 2003. Since then, Georgia and Ukraine, another eastern European country that also was once in the former Soviet Union’s orbit, have both asked to be admitted as members of NATO. The Russian government often has cited its displeasure at the thought of such an event ever taking place.

The Russians also are upset about a planned U.S.-Polish-Czech missile interceptor system that U.S. officials say doesn’t threaten Moscow and is instead designed as a deterrent against rogue states’ ballistic missiles. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski signed the missile-defense agreement today in Warsaw. The Czech Republic reportedly has agreed to base radar nodes for the system.

This morning, senior Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told Pentagon reporters that unofficial reports indicate Russian military forces began a withdrawal from the Georgian town of Gori last evening. However, U.S. officials are “going to have to see whether or not that is the beginning of a true withdrawal,” Whitman said.

NATO is reevaluating the nature of its relationship with Russia in view of its military actions in Georgia, Bush said in Orlando today. NATO leaders have “determined that business as usual cannot continue with Russia, and the alliance agreed to help Georgia by sending NATO teams to assess the country’s needs and by forming a new NATO-Georgia commission,” Bush said.

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