Last month, the Georgian Parliament adopted historic constitutional amendments, followed by new electoral reforms, further strengthening our young democracy ahead of free, fair, and representative elections this fall. These constitutional reforms were proposed by the Georgian Dream government – and applauded by virtually everyone else. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and the State Department sent strong statements of support.
The adoption of these vital measures, brokered and encouraged by the U.S. and the EU, marks another important step to ensure a European and Euro-Atlantic future for our country. Under the leadership of the former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder and chair of the Georgian Dream political party, Georgia has moved ever closer to America and Europe.
The Georgian government works closely with the United States to strengthen Georgia’s readiness and defense capabilities in the face of Russian aggression; to counter cyberattacks aimed at disrupting our elections; and force a withdrawal of Russian forces from our occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. Since the 2008 invasion, Russia occupies 20 percent of our territories, with thousands of Russian troops stationed 40 miles away from our capital.
Yet you wouldn’t know Georgia stands shoulder-to-shoulder with America and its allies – fighting global terrorism, daily standing up to Russian aggression – from Rep. Markwayne MullinMarkwayne MullinFive takeaways from PPP loan data Lawmaker-linked businesses received PPP loans The United States must stand with Georgia’s fight for freedom MORE’s (R-Okla.) unfounded characterizations about my country that appeared in The Hill.
Since the early days of campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Georgian servicemen and women have fought side-by-side with their American brothers-in-arms on American-led NATO missions fighting terrorism.
Georgia is resolutely focused on its embrace of the West. The facts speak for themselves: The Georgian Dream initiated an amendment to the constitution enshrining our Western integration. It successfully delivered a historic Association Agreement, DCFTA, and visa free travel with the EU. Georgia proudly signed the Memorandum on Deepening the Defense and Security Partnership with the U.S. in 2016 and the Georgia Defense Readiness Program in 2017 bringing our bilateral military cooperation to its highest level.
We aggressively aspire to full NATO membership, supported staunchly by the American government. We are one of a small handful of NATO allies that consistently invests 2 percent of its GDP in defense; we participate in more joint training exercises than ever with U.S. forces, and we host a number of new NATO facilities.
Congressman Mullin’s attempt to undermine the broad support Georgia enjoys from the United States on the basis of an unrelated commercial dispute is mystifying. The company he champions, Frontera Resources, lost a unanimous legal arbitration decision against Georgia at The Hague in April. That should have been the end of the dispute. Georgia had announced well before the verdict that it would abide by The International Tribunal’s ruling, whatever it might be. Frontera Resources apparently decided otherwise.
Perhaps that’s not surprising, since Frontera has been accused of “exploiting” Georgia’s oil and gas resources – even failing to pay its Georgian workers leaving hundreds of people without paychecks during the pandemic.
Mullin cites two other companies successfully doing business in Georgia who actually won their legal appeals in Georgian courts a few years back. More than 300 American companies currently are doing business in Georgia, and the number is increasing because Georgia is an attractive business destination.
The facts about Georgia’s open and market-driven economy belie the congressman’s arguments. Virtually every economic index ranks Georgia among the world’s best performers, citing its low taxes, legal transparency and absence of corruption. The World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” rankings place Georgia 7th in the world. The Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index ranks Georgia the 12th freest economy in the world, making it the only developing country among the top 20 performers. This is hardly the business environment Mullin describes.
It is regrettable that a commercial dispute is somehow conflated into the notion that the geo-political balance in the Black Sea region is shifting, especially coming from a U.S. congressman. Georgia has been America’s stalwart ally in this region. This will not change.
We encourage all members of Congress to visit Georgia; meet with our business leaders; take a trip to the front lines of the Russian-occupied territories; and engage firsthand with the U.S. soldiers who train our forces. You won’t recognize the Georgia described by Congressman Mullin.
Irakli Beraia is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of Georgia.