Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry's Travel to Georgia, Ukraine, and Poland

Special Briefing
Senior State Department Official
Joint Base Andrews
July 5, 2016


MODERATOR: Well, getting ready to head to Tbilisi and then on to Kyiv, and we have with us a senior State Department official to walk us through the first couple of stages of this trip. And for your edification, [the] name is [Senior State Department Official] but henceforth known as a senior State Department official.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: All right, everybody. As you know, we are ending the week by joining up with the President for the NATO Summit in Warsaw. This is an opportunity to visit two close partners of the NATO alliance. The Secretary has not yet had a chance to visit Georgia as Secretary. We have a very close security partnership with Georgia. We also have a strong economic relationship which is growing as they become a key link on the New Silk Road.

MODERATOR: As Secretary of State. Sorry. You --

QUESTION: I’m sure he’s visited Georgia before.

MODERATOR: Not as Secretary of State. I’m almost positive he hasn’t.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m confident he hasn’t.

MODERATOR: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Should we start against since I just messed up the tape? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Don’t worry about it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Don’t worry about it. We’ll just cut it out when we transcribe it. (Laughter.) He’s been to Moldova. He’s been to Kyiv twice, right? Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s probably Moldova. Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: All right, picking up where we were. So strong security relationship with Georgia, a strong economic relationship where we’ve been very much involved in helping them with their reform agenda. They head to elections in October. Georgia is one of the --

QUESTION: Is that presidential, parliamentary, what?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s a prime ministerial system, so it’s --

QUESTION: Parliamentary.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It’s parliamentary elections. Georgia is one of the post-Soviet states that has a successful tradition of alternation of power, so this is an opportunity to reinforce all of those democratic values as well as they head towards elections in October.

Just to go over the day in Georgia, we will start with a meeting with Prime Minister Kvirikashvili and a session of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission, which is something that we do every year. He’ll also have some time with Foreign Minister Janelidze and a joint press avail with the prime minister. Then he’ll have a meeting with President Margvelashvili, who is in the Georgian system the primary on security issues, so he’ll also be going to the NATO Summit in Warsaw, so we’ll have a chance to talk about those issues. And then he’s going to have a conversation, we hope, outside on the river with some young Georgian entrepreneurs – a chance to talk to the next generation of Georgians building their country.

Then on the next morning, on Thursday, he’ll have a conversation with opposition political leaders, again reinforcing this message of free, fair elections, the importance of comity in that – comity in that – in the electoral period, and a quick hello with the speaker of the parliament, Usupashvili.

Then we go on to Kyiv. I actually can’t recall if this is his second or third trip to Kyiv as Secretary. It may be his third.

QUESTION: I’ve been twice with him.

QUESTION: Yeah, twice before.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: You’ve been twice, so this is his third but not – yeah, his third trip to – as Secretary. Again, you know that we just had new Ukrainian Prime Minister Groysman in Washington for meetings with Vice President Biden, with the Hill, to check up on the Ukrainian reform agenda. This is an opportunity to talk about those issues as well as the road to full implementation of the Minsk agreements and the security situation more broadly in Ukraine – the United States the largest provider of security support to Ukraine – on the way to the Warsaw Summit. NATO also has a strong partnership with Ukraine in the security sector, so checking up on all of those things.

Just to go over the schedule, we start with Prime Minister Groysman, who the Secretary met with when he was speaker of the parliament but has not had a chance to meet with as prime minister because he was traveling when Groysman was in Washington. He’ll then have some time with Foreign Minister Klimkin, with Speaker of the Parliament Parubiy, and with President Poroshenko, and a joint press avail with President Poroshenko. And then we will be off to Warsaw.

QUESTION: Do both – they both send their heads of state to Warsaw?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. There will be in Warsaw at the foreign minister level, a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission, so Secretary will be in our chair for that. And at the heads level at the Warsaw Summit, there will be a NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting, so they’ll both be there.

QUESTION: What’s the relevance of it two days before the NATO – these – visiting these two places two days before NATO?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: These are, as I said, important partners of the alliance – partners whose security means a lot to the United States. We have a strong security relationship bilaterally. We also have a NATO security relationship with both of them, but it’s a chance to highlight the fact that we are close partners, that their security interests and their Euro-Atlantic aspirations – their aspirations to get closer to the EU and NATO – also matter to us.

QUESTION: Is there a message to Russia?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Russia can take whatever message it would like from this, but it’s obviously a message of support and reassurance for their Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

QUESTION: Do they need reassurance? Their aspirations are going to remains aspirations for a long time, aren’t they?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, there’s – both of them are engaged in hard reform work. Both of them have association agreements with the European Union. They’re both on track for visa liberalization with the European Union. They’re both involved in lots of internal structural reform. Both of them have strong security partnerships with NATO. They have had – Georgia is a NATO aspirant. Ukraine at this stage has not made a decision but is very much in support of the partnership that it has, including the – I think there are four NATO trust funds in support of different Ukrainian security goals, so --

QUESTION: But Georgia can’t join NATO with South Ossetia and Abkhazia under Russian occupation.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well --

QUESTION: They could activate Article 5 on day one.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, at this stage, they are involved in a partnership program with NATO, so – they were not at that stage.

QUESTION: And what’s the U.S. position on their aspirations?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think we stand by what NATO said in Bucharest at 2000 – in 2008, and we will repeat that at this summit – namely that we do see their future with NATO but that there’s more work to do.

QUESTION: How are the Ukrainians doing on their part of Minsk?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: So I think where we are here is we are supporting the work that France and Germany as the two lead nations are doing in trying to negotiate a more detailed package of political agreements and a more detailed package of security agreements to implement Minsk. I think it’s fair to say that quite a bit of progress has been made on the political aspects of Minsk. There’s still work to be done there, but far more needs to be done to reach an agreement on the security side. So that will involve concrete conversations about disengagement and ceasefire on the line, OSCE access throughout the territory, cantonment of heavy weapons – we can’t have an election in eastern Ukraine unless those things happen.