President Trump should keep Georgia on his mind

Residents of Gori waited to receive humanitarian aid from local authorities as Russia called for Georgian forces to surrender in the separatist enclave of Abkhazia.
Residents of Gori waited to receive humanitarian aid from local authorities as Russia called for Georgian forces to surrender in the separatist enclave of Abkhazia. Getty Images

When President Trump unveiled his foreign policy of “America First,” many countries in Europe and Asia wondered what role America would play on the global stage. We in Georgia believe that in putting American interests first, the Trump administration will continue its support of our secular democratic country, which for two decades has had widespread bipartisan Congressional support and take a leadership in resolving our conflict with Russia.

Ten years ago, the Russian Federation invaded two Georgian regions, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, and it has occupied them ever since in violation of international law and our sovereignty. Hundreds of thousands Georgians fled or were expelled. To this day, they cannot return.

Georgia seeks a peaceful and practical solution with the Russian Federation. We have made concrete progress in de-escalating tensions, but the Russian government has not responded to our appeals to find a meaningful solution to this serious violation of our territorial rights.

Georgians choose to view Trump’s recent engagement with Russia at Helsinki in a positive light, hoping that better relations between the United States and Russia will deliver constructive results and substantive benefits for the world and our nation. Similarly, given that Europe is our largest trade partner, we were heartened to see the Trump administration make constructive progress in setting a “zero tariff” deal between the United States and the European Union.

Georgia stands strategically between the East and West, between Europe and Central Asia, and between Turkey and Russia. In this position, we can have no better advocate than President Trump who, in fostering better relations with Russia and the Russian president, will be in a strong position to break the deadlock in our dispute with Russia. I urge him to do so.

Despite our regional challenges, business in Georgia is flourishing with substantial year-to-year increases in our GDP and exports, and a healthy and growing tourism industry. We are proud to have shouldered our commitments in partnership with the United States, sending our soldiers to serve with NATO in Afghanistan.

We still have a long way to go and, as prime minister, I am excited to lead our nation into its future. The United States’ continued success and strength remain the best engine for a thriving global economy. Georgia depends upon President Trump putting America First to negotiate a more equitable relationship with headstrong nations such as Russia.

All we ask is that when the president does so, he keeps a peaceful and prosperous Georgia in mind as an indispensable building block to the success story of the entire Eurasian continent.

The United States and Georgia enjoy shared values, and we hope President Trump will advance our mutual interest in engaging Russia in a substantive dialogue. The world is watching and Georgia awaits President Trump’s leadership on this issue.

Mamuka Bakhtadze, a former finance minister, became prime minister of Georgia in June.