The Georgia and the World newspaper responded to the 1 September 2021 statement of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, about Russian-Georgian relations with the following article: “Why Does the US Ambassador Speak on Behalf of the Government of Georgia and Should the Georgian Authorities Accept Russia’s I0nvitation?” In this article, the Head of the Eurasian Institute, Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, as well as political commentator, Soso Tsintsadze, and civic activist (according to GeWorld.ge), Ardalion Khaadze, promote Russia-supporting and anti-American narratives. They claim that Georgia has no alternative to normalise relations with Russia except for dialogues, although US politics and the US Ambassador, Kelly Degnan, hinder Georgia in starting the talks. The article quotes Ardalion Khaadze speaking about the American aid: “It has been years since America is ostensibly our partner, but owing to them we no longer have an economy, leaving aside the return of the territories. It has been 30 years of America sending money to Georgia which is spent for one purpose alone – agitation against Russia. This money is not invested in Georgia’s development; it is used for Georgian politicians to get rich.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, stated: “If Georgia is indeed unwilling to ‘play the Russian card’ to keep the West’s patronage, but wishes to live normally with us as neighbours, we are always ready for that.” The US Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, responded to this statement: “Georgians have heard these statements from the Kremlin many times. They would have a lot more credibility if they were followed up by actually withdrawing from Georgia’s occupied territories and reversing the recognition of Tskhinvali and Abkhazia, and actually following through on the obligations to which Russia committed in 2008. I haven’t seen any step toward that, in fact, there is still a flight ban and there are still restrictions on markets. So, it seems to me that until Georgians see some credible moves, concrete moves forward in these areas regarding the occupied territories, the statements that come from Kremlin don’t carry a lot of weight.”
Sergey Lavrov and Kelly Degnan’s statements were followed by responses from pro-Russian and anti-Western public groups. As mentioned earlier, the main message promoted by these groups is that America makes decision instead of Georgia whilst benefit from their cooperation is wasted on agitation against Russia alone and is not used for Georgia’s development. In particular, civic activist, Ardalion Khaadze, stated: “It has been years since America is ostensibly our partner, but owing to them we no longer have an economy, leaving aside the return of the territories. It has been 30 years of America sending money to Georgia which is spent for one purpose alone – agitation against Russia. This money is not invested in Georgia’s development; it is used for Georgian politicians to get rich.”
In fact, in the course of the 28-year-long Georgian-American partnership, US aid has been spent for funding and development of multiple fields in Georgia such as, for example, democracy and human rights, education, economy, peace, defence, security, etc. In fact, Georgia received USD 4,348,400,000 in financial aid from the United States in the period of 1992-2020. According to the report of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Georgia is among the top recipients in the group of European and Eurasian countries in terms of US foreign and military aid. In 1992-2000, the US government allocated over USD 680 million in total. At the end of the decade, the US provided additional funds to improve Georgia’s border and maritime security and finance the fight against transnational crime.
In the following decade from 2001 to 2007, Georgia received over USD 945 million in aid. In addition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) compact programme was launched in 2005 in Georgia and the US provided USD several hundred million in aid within the scope of this programme. A total of USD 295.3 million was spent in 2005-2008 as a part of this programme on roads, pipelines, rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure and development of agricultural business. In November 2008, compact aid increased by USD 100 million based on a compact amendment between the MCC and the Government of Georgia and amounted to USD 395.3 million in total. Furthermore, the MCC provided USD 140 million in aid in 2014-2019 which was mostly spent on educational purposes (building educational infrastructure, trainings, improvement in STEM teaching, etc.).
Table 1: Financial Aid to Georgia in 2005-2019 within the Scope of the Millennium Challenge Corporation
During the 2008-2009 fiscal year, United States aid to Georgia reached USD 1.4 billion, including USD 250 million in direct budgetary assistance. In the aftermath of the August 2008 war, the United States transferred USD 116.3 million for the rehabilitation and the rebuilding of the country. After the war, Georgia became one of the top recipients of US aid money.
In 2010-2017, the US allocated USD 60 million on average every year for non-military purposes. In 2018, this increased to USD 70.8 million and the US congress allocated USD 89.8 million in 2019 for non-military purposes. Of note is that the Finance Committee of both the US Senate and the House of Representatives recommended an allocation pf USD 89.8 million for Georgia for the 2020 fiscal year. As for 2021, the United States allocated USD 132 million in aid which also includes USD 35 million in military assistance.
Of note is that the United States contributes heavily to upgrading Georgia’s defence potential. Since 1997, Georgia has received over USD 400 million as part of the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme. In 2021, Georgia received USD 35 million. Money allocated as part of the FMF programme is fully distributed for training, equipment with modern weaponry and systems in line with NATO standards and developing the capabilities of Georgian Defence Forces. Deepening cooperation in the field of defence cooperation aims to modernise Georgia’s military system, accelerate defence reforms, increase interoperability with NATO and improve Georgia’s defence potential.
The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) contribution for Georgia’s rapid and smooth democratic transition process warrants particular emphasis in Georgian-American relations. Through the USAID, the United States provided more than USD 1.8 billion in aid for Georgia in the course of 27 years. Currently, the United States provides financing to more than 35 different programmes through the USAID aiming to strengthen democratic governance in Georgia and facilitate the country’s economic development. Of additional note is the USAID’s involvement in different sectors, including an agriculture programme, personnel exchange and study financing programmes (Fulbright, Future Leaders Exchange [FLEX], student exchange [UGRAD], legal education and practice [LEAP], international visitor leadership, teaching and learning English programmes) and other activities aimed at facilitating democratic governance principles.
Therefore, claim that the US aid is spent on anti-Russian agitation instead of Georgia’s development is a lie. In the course of the 28-year-long partnership between Georgia and the United States, the latter invested USD hundreds of millions for the development of Georgia.
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