23 May 2017
analysis

US Congress conditions foreign aid on Georgia

Author: Zviad Adzinbaia / Source:

On May 5, the United States Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, which prevents the U.S administration from providing financial assistance to governments that support independence of the Russian-occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.

The document articulates that the US may not make any funds appropriated in the 2017 Act available for assistance for a country "who has recognized the independence of, or has established diplomatic relations with” Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region.

According to the official text, the Secretary of the Treasury shall instruct the US executive directors of each international financial institution to vote against any assistance by such institution (including any credit, loan, or guarantee) for any program that violates Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Act also instructs the Secretary of State to submit a report on actions taken by Russia to further consolidate the occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, including the estimated annual costs of this occupation. The report should be sent to the appropriate congressional committees by August the latest.
 
This sanction directed towards supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, may only be waived if the Secretary of State determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that to do so is in U.S. national interest, and includes a justification for such interest.  
 

Longtime effort

The Georgian side first introduced the language supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in 2015. This initiative was supposed to be included in the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Bill (SFOPs), which constitutes one of the 12 Appropriations Bills adopted by the US Congress annually and allocates funds from US Federal budget for operations abroad. In 2016, the Senate approved the Georgia-proposed language in a Senate version of FY16 SFOPs Bill. This time the House version incorporated parts of it in the Committee Report but not in the bill itself.

The US Presidential elections of October 2016 triggered adoption of Continued Resolution (CR), rather than the Appropriations Bills. CRs focus solely on funding and avoid any political statements, so the formulation on Georgia was not included. Early this month, the Congress ended up adopting FY17 Consolidated Appropriations Bill (instead of 12 separate Appropriations Bills), which includes the Georgia-proposed formulation that supported Georgia’s territorial integrity.

David Bakradze, Georgian ambassador in Washington, D.C. told The Clarion this was the first time that "the Russian occupation of Georgia’s territories was mentioned in a US law”. "It was a result of hard work by the Georgian side, as well as the will of the Congress and the White House,” ambassador emphasized.

Prior to the adoption of the Act, on May 2, 30 US Congressmen sent a joint letter to the US President Donald Trump in support of Georgia, which stressed: "Russia has illegally occupied twenty percent of Georgian territory since it invaded Georgia in 2008. Russian troops have continued the process of creeping annexation and frequently commit human rights violations and kidnappings throughout the occupied region and adjacent territories”.

The Georgian Embassy says that this letter to the President,and the Appropriations Act are the latest testaments of unwavering support of the United States to Georgia.

Impact on Russia and its Allies

Currently, Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru recognize the independence of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.

According to the USAID, in 2016 the United States assisted Venezuela with the total of $12 million for the government and civil society programs. In the same year, Nicaragua received $55 million in support of the sectors of government and civil society, conflict prevention and resolution as well as health. Compared to these two countries, Nauru has been least dependent on US financial aid, receiving $324 thousand in 2015 and no benefits from any U.S. agencies in 2014 and 2013.

As for Russia, in 2014, U.S. assistance to Moscow reached $155 million, mainly focusing on nuclear energy electric power plants and allocating some $20 million in the fields of governance and civil society. In 2015, all U.S. agencies combined provided some $29 million in aid to Russia. No aid was provided in 2016 and 2017. As of October 2012, USAID ended its programs in Russia, which previously, over the past two decades, worked to improve public health and combat infectious diseases, protect the environment, develop a stronger civil society, and modernize Russia’s economy.

The Appropriations Act will effectively end any US assistance to Russia and its allies currently recognizing Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region as independent states.

Georgia’s policy of non-recognition

The Georgian government considers the language in the Appropriations Act a highly efficient preventive measure for other countries to further declare independence, or establish diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region.

Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze stated that the US support once again affirms the strong support to Georgia’s territorial integrity by its strategic partner.

Georgian experts and politicians believe that the Act will play a considerable role in Georgia’s non-recognition policy, which aims at attracting wider international support toward Georgia’s territorial integrity and discouraging countries that may be willing to recognize Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region as independent states through Russia’s diplomatic pressure.

President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili released a public statement declaring that "through this act, the United States protects Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and further promotes the non-recognition policy of the country’s occupied territories.”
 
According to an opposition Georgian MP Salome Samadashvili, "this document is a signal that a new era is beginning in relations between the US and Russia, when the US directly envisions Russia as a state, which endangers not only the US but also its partners throughout the world.”
 
Experts also assert that to be effective this Act requires active engagement from the Georgian side and building relevant strategies around it. Founder of the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center Nodar Kharshiladze warns that Russia is obviously planning on launching a second wave of the recognition of the Georgian territories. "Georgia can proactively engage with regional actors; however, such a policy requires very active and progressive foreign policy,” Kharshiladze stated.

Zviad Adzinbaia is Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, focusing on International Security Studies.

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