Georgia National Day

Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 8, 2016

Good evening. Thank you Ambassador Gegeshidze for your kind invitation to celebrate with you. It is an honor I am very happy to share with an impressive and bipartisan gathering of distinguished colleagues—too many to name but who represent the incredible warmth and friendship that defines our relationship.

We’re pleased to welcome Ministers Janelidze and Khidasheli to Washington. On behalf of Secretary Kerry, it is my great privilege to celebrate with you and the people of Georgia as you mark 25 years of independence and 8,000 years of wine-making.

It is a record we wish we could beat.

When the United States turned twenty-five, we hadn’t even yet finished building the United States Capitol—let alone crossed our own expanse to reach the Pacific coast.

From the day of our independence, through moments of trial and triumph, our nation has been guided by an enduring belief in humankind’s deepest values and by the eternal pursuit of its highest ideals—a pursuit we share with nations the world over who have fought to preserve and protect individual liberty.

In this journey, the United States and Georgia are the closest of friends and firmest of partners. I had the great pleasure of welcoming now Prime Minister Kvirkashvili to Washington in November for our fifth strategic partnership commission plenary session.

Our discussions were excellent, and they covered a range of topics, from our determined support for Georgia’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic community to our firm solidarity against external threats to Georgia’s sovereignty.

We look forward to the day when Georgia is unified once more—for decisions on Georgia’s future should be made by the citizens of Georgia and them alone. Period. We stand by the commitment we made in Bucharest that Georgia will become a member of NATO, and we continue to strongly support its aspirations on this path.

When called to meet the challenges of the 21st century, Georgia never hesitates. Georgia continues to serve honorably in Afghanistan as the third largest contributor to the Resolute Support Mission, behind only the United States and Germany. We honor the extraordinary sacrifices of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan, where they fought bravely alongside U.S. Marines in Helmand Province, and we express our gratitude for their role in making our world just a little bit safer.

For over a quarter of a century, Georgia’s record of progress has served as a beacon for the region. Your hard work in advancing the EU Association Agreement with its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area is already delivering for Georgians today—unlocking new opportunities for innovation and growth. Georgia’s strategic position at the crossroads of Europe and Asia is a critical component of our New Silk Road policy. The United States strongly supports Georgia’s regional leadership to create a web of trade linkages along the Trans-Caspian corridor to connect European and Asian markets. Through your growing trade, transit, and energy connections, Georgia is a key partner in diversifying trade across Eurasia, so no one country can dictate the economic policy of others.

We also know that inclusive growth cannot be sustained without a foundation of freedom, pluralism, and rule of law. Today, Georgia remains a source of democratic inspiration to the region—a commitment even more remarkable for the fact that Georgia has had to endure Russia’s occupation and borderization.

Parliamentary elections this fall will present another opportunity to show residents in occupied territories and the wider neighborhood that democracy, openness, and tolerance are society’s best guarantors of peace, prosperity, and stability. The world is watching—and we know Georgia will rise to the occasion.

Looking around this lively and full room, I am reminded this evening that our deepest and strongest ties are not simply between our leaders or institutions but between our peoples. Earlier this year, a young woman from Tbilisi became one of only ten young leaders from around the world recognized at the State Department for their extraordinary contributes to their communities.

As we look back on the achievements of the past twenty-five years, I have no doubt these young people will help lead those of the next twenty-five and many, many more.

Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Foreign Minister, and Madame Minister of Defense, for your generous hospitality this evening and your deeply meaningful partnership year round. On behalf of the people of the United States, I am honored to offer you our best wishes on this happy occasion. Thank you very much.