Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago this August, Russian tanks rolled across the border into the independent nation of Georgia. After 5 days of bloody fighting, with thousands of innocent Georgians displaced from their homes, the conflict ended with the Russians promising to pull back its forces.
I happened to be in Georgia 1 week after the Russian invasion and saw the tanks on the high ground and the destruction that the Russians made of Tbilisi. It is 10 years since that invasion and Moscow and its troops still occupy one-third of sovereign territory of the Republic of Georgia.
The Kremlin claims these Russian troops are in Georgia as peacekeepers. Are you kidding me?
It is an invasion. They are a heavily armed battle group waiting to provoke Georgia into another fight.
They have committed horrific human rights abuses against the Georgian people, often harassing civilians and denying Georgians the ability to move about their country freely. The continued presence of Russian troops on Georgian soil presents a major violation of international law.
America’s response at the time was to condemn and issue sanctions against the Russians, but the Obama administration removed the punishing sanctions against Russia as part of its foolish reset with the Kremlin. We now know this demonstration of weakness only encouraged further aggression from Russia, and it invaded a neighbor state in 2014.
This time it seized and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, another independent sovereign state that Russia had sworn to respect. Then Russian tanks moved on and invaded eastern Ukraine and occupied part of that territory.
After 10 years of illegal occupation of Georgian territory, we need to do more to help our Georgian friends resist the Russian bear. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia emerged as the beacon of hope in the region and hope for democracy.
Georgia’s faithful commitment to a strong democracy with free and fair elections serves as a shining example for other countries in Eastern Europe. Russia hoped to break this beacon of hope 10 years ago, but Georgia has remained defiant.
As co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, I have long seen that major vulnerabilities remain that Russia could exploit. Georgia is a small country.
It cannot afford to compete with the might of the Russian bear. That is why I have introduced the Georgia Support Act along with my caucus co-chair, Representative CONNOLLY from Virginia.
Through this important bill, we hope to significantly enhance Georgia’s ability to combat and deter Putin’s wicked activities. With our assistance, America can provide Georgia specific advantages that can make any new attempt by Russia a costly endeavor.
Also, with modern warfare extending to cyberspace, we can improve coordination to identify Russia’s cyber attacks and build safeguards within. This means building up Georgia’s ability to combat disinformation and propaganda from Russia.
As we have seen, Moscow is all over the world trying to undermine democracies by invading their elections, including our own. Working with Georgian partners, we can show Russia has been caught.
Additionally, this bill calls on President Trump to impose sanctions for serious human rights abuses in that occupied territory of Georgia. Not only will it help our Georgian friends on the front line of Russian aggression, but it sends a message to the Kremlin that America will and must stand up against that bad behavior and defend the international rule of law.
Czar Putin must be shown that his dream of rebuilding the Russian empire is not going to happen. We must show our freedom-loving friends around the globe that America will stand with them.
The Georgian people have shown they will fight for freedom, even against overwhelming odds. While the Kremlin believes that it has prevented Georgia’s aspirations of joining the important organization of NATO by seizing territory, we can send a signal that that victory is hollow.
Georgia is still on the path to greater integration with the West. Georgia must remain, with our help, free and prosperous.
Russia will find itself isolated and full of regret for ever following Putin’s foolish ambition of aggression in the region.
And that is just the way it is.