Thursday, February 26, 2004

Georgia to Russia: Deal with it

The President of Georgia has stated that Georgia plans to be "a close ally of the United States" and that "Russia will have to live with that fact."

The Republic of Georgia plans to be a close ally of the United States and its giant neighbor Russia will have to live with that fact, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said in an interview yesterday.

The newly elected president, who engineered the ouster of former President Eduard Shevardnadze last fall, was in a buoyant mood after what aides described as a "very warm" meeting with President Bush yesterday in the Oval Office.

"The relationship is based on shared values," said the hulking U.S.-trained lawyer, who emphasized the "kinship" and "chemistry" between Georgia and the United States during a meeting at Blair House with editors and reporters from The Washington Times.

Mr. Saakashvili said he had recently met for 4½ hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he found "nostalgic" over the demise of the former Soviet Union but desirous of better relations with his neighbors.

"They are getting used to our cooperation with the Americans and learning to live with it," Mr. Saakashvili said.

Almost every member of the new Georgian government has been trained in the United States, making the new leadership a natural ally of the West and the United States. Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili, for example, is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas and of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

"Basically we speak the same language," Mr. Saakashvili said.


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