The Establishment of Georgian-American Diplomatic Relations

It is a well-known fact that 31 March 1991 is the most important date of Georgia’s modern history, because on this day its government held the referendum on the issue of independence [Radio Tavisupleba, 2016]. Soon afterwards, on 9 April 1991, Georgia’s supreme council of the first call announced the restoration of the state independence on the basis of the Act of Independence of May 26, 1918 [Doghonadze, 2002:10]. The Act of Independence was not immediately recognized by the international community. Therefore, it was important to create determined and well-directed diplomatic ties for establishing and developing political relations. The U.S. addressed the process of the declaration of independence made by the republics of the Soviet Union only on 12 December 1991. The U.S. secretary James Baker first referred to the Soviet Union as to a former country during his speech in Princeton [Doghonadze, 2002:10]. James Baker declared: “We are living in a new era after the fall of the Soviet Union” [Doghonadze, 2002:18].

  In my opinion, the above-mentioned political message proves that the U.S. has to adjust to the new world order and to find a new way of political flexibility – it has to have a new independent foreign policy towards the heir of the USSR (the Russian Federation) and other former Soviet republics.

   It is obvious that the U.S. has kept devotion to Mikhail Gorbachov, who was the first as well as the last President of the Soviet Union. Notwithstanding this fact, the U.S. cannot ignore new geopolitical realities. Washington D.C. as well as the rest of the world knows that the U.S. is losing its position in the world political forefront. Nevertheless, the U.S. is ready to avoid social riots in the former Soviet republics and to sponsor an effective foreign aid [Doghonadze, 2002:18]. Obviously, the West needs to show that former Soviet peoples will not be left alone and better living conditions will be expected in the future.

   I believe that the U.S. diplomatic devotion towards the Soviet Union throughout the collapse of the USSR is not surprising, since the U.S. was aware of the complicated and diverse geographical, political and religious situation in the South Caucasus. To the U.S. this region imposes a threat in terms of the outspread of terrorism, chaos and fray. In fact, the U.S. needs the Soviet Union as the guarantee against the threatening danger.

   One of the most important problems for the U.S. is the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. James baker declared that they would not allow exporting the nuclear weapon and technologies abroad. The U.S. takes the responsibility to employ experts and professionals in order to prevent the “dictators of Eastern countries” to use the nuclear weapon [Doghonadze, 2002:19].

James Baker declared that Russia, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan had shown their devotion to the democratic ideals and therefore, they deserved the support of the United States [Doghonadze, 2002:19]. Georgia and Azerbaijan were in the “blacklist”. According to James Baker, the reason of this was President of Georgia - Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Supposedly, communism had to be replaced by the totalitarian regime in Georgia [Doghonadze, 2002:19]. It was clear that the U.S. government was not satisfied with Gamsakhurdia’s ruling style and methods. That is why, the process of the recognition of independence as well as the establishment of the diplomatic relations between Georgia and the West was delayed.

As for Zviad Gamsakhurdia’s and George H. W. Bush’s relations, it must be mentioned that Gamsakhurdia completely disagreed with the idea of the American colleague regarding the importance of the maintenance of the Soviet Union [Shurgulaya, 2011]. Moreover, Gamsakhurdia blamed President Bush in the secret negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachov. On 9 November 1991, James Baker met Eduard Shevardnadze and Mikhail Gorbachov in Moscow. The American diplomat declared that the U.S. did not recognize Georgia as an independent country [Shurgulaya, 2011]. The political relations between the government of Gamsakhurdia and the government of Bush came to end. Eventually, after a month and a half, the U.S. had to recognize the independence of Georgia. However, by this time, the political situation in Georgia as well as in the rest of the world had significantly changed.

  On 25 December 1991, the U.S. recognized the independence of Georgia. U.S. President George H. W. Bush welcomed the post-Soviet countries and spoke about the necessity of immediate diplomatic contacts with them [Doghonadze, 2002:22]. President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia heard about this recognition in the air raid shelter of the House of Government.

  George H. W. Bush addressed the former Soviet republics: “Today the U.S. recognizes following six former Soviet Republics as independent states: Moldova, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Uzbekistan. We will establish diplomatic relations with them when we become confident that they take liabilities to ensure security policies and democratic principles, as did those states, which we recognize today” [Doghonadze, 2002:22].

  25 December 1991 was an initial fundamental date of Georgian-American diplomatic relations. President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia met this crucial political event in the bunker. Soon he left the country and the civil war started. It affected negatively Georgia’s internal as well as foreign policy.

In February of 1992, James Baker paid visits to the post-Soviet countries, but he did not visit Georgia. Prime Minister of Georgia Tengiz Sigua met Baker in Moscow, in the hotel “Olimpic Penta". The main goal of Georgia was gaining the U.S. political support and becoming a member of the Security Council of the U.N. [Chikvaidze, 2017].

   In my opinion, the most significant events were the recognition of independence and afterwards, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Georgia by President Bush.

  Since March 1992, Georgia’s government waited for a diplomatic message from the U.S. to open the American embassy and to establish political relations. I think that Georgian-American diplomatic contacts were established very soon (approximately in four months) after the dissolution of the USSR. That means how important it was to open diplomatic missions in the South Caucasus (firstly, in Georgia).

As a result, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi was opened on 23 April 1992. The American party was pleased with starting bilateral diplomatic contacts and noted that the opening ceremony was attended by the Head of the State Eduard Shevardnadze and other members of the government. The ceremony was attended by American Senator Alan Carston and other representatives of the American society [Tutwiler A, 1992]. I believe that American Senator’s attendance is one of the most meaningful occasions in Georgia’s recent history.

Soon after the establishment of diplomatic relations, on 2 July 1992 the U.S. President assigned the head of the Foreign Department - Kent Brown - as an ambassador to Georgia [Bush, 1992].

  According to the above mentioned, the U.S. planned official visits in post-Soviet countries after the dissolution of the USSR and recognition of former Soviet republics. On 3 February 1992, it was announced that Baker would visit the Russian Federation [Tutwiler B, 1992]. However, despite this fact, the U.S. did not plan official meetings in the post-Soviet countries. Georgia, Azerbaijan or Moldova did not interest America at that period. In my opinion, the reason why the U.S. delayed political contacts with Georgia was an uncertain political situation in Georgia. There was the civil war. Zviad Gamsakhurdia left Georgia, afterwards returned to its western part and tried to fight for the power. The political opportunity to establish ties between Georgia and the U.S. appeared in March of 1992, when Eduard Shevardnadze, a former foreign minister of the USSR, came back to Georgia. I believe that this fact accelerated the establishment of Georgian-American political relations. Eduard Shevardnadze had a long political relation with George H.W. Bush and James Baker. Shevardnadze was a quite well-known political figure in the political arena, who was famous for his achievements in establishing peace. On 25 March 1992, American party declared that the first group of American diplomats would visit Georgia by 15 April 1992 [Tutwiler C, 1992].

   According to the official announcement made by the U.S. in 1992, it was obvious that America was interested in the establishment of strong political relations with Georgia and was ready to help this country in building state institutions, enhancing democracy and holding fair elections. It was clear that the U.S. was ready to establish diplomatic relations based on mutual and common values that would be the guarantee of common safety and welfare. The U.S. supported Georgia’s internal and foreign policy. It was interested in fundamental changes in Georgia revealed in its real course directed towards building democratic institutions as well as the development of the state  oriented to the principle of the supremacy of order. The United States of America was ready to help Georgia in political, humanitarian and financial ways, but America demanded from Georgia the loyalty to the principles recognized on an international level.

After the restoration of independence, Georgia has actively struggled for gaining the political support and recognition on an international level. There were many official visits throughout Georgia’s recent diplomatic history, but I think that James Baker’s visit before the establishment of Georgian-American diplomatic relations was vital. Baker represented a country, which was a winner in the Cold War.

  On 21 May 1992, it was announced that U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, would visit Georgia. It was obvious, that Washington was interested in deepening bilateral relations with Tbilisi and the United States was ready to assist Georgia in the establishment and strengthening of the free market and democratic institutions. Most importantly, James Baker would meet with Head of the Government Eduard Shevardnadze [Boucher, 1992]. This visit came under the attention of the world media. The western press often wrote that Baker arrived in Georgia to support his friend with whom he had a long-time friendship [Crossette, 1992].

   On 25 May 1992 U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, visited Georgia. Eduard Shevardnadze positively assessed the visit of the American highest diplomat. Shevardnadze recalled his talk with Baker at Tbilisi airport: “We have brought our strong political support to the government of your country. We believe that Georgia will remain on the path of the democratic transition” [Shevardnadze, 2006:326]. Of course, Baker's visit was an important political event in the first years of Georgia’s independence. Gela Charkviani wrote in his memoirs that Baker or German Foreign Minister, Hans Dietrich Genscher, politically supported Shevardnadze “in advance” [Charkviani, 2016:14]. The West believed that the legitimacy of the government was necessary and it could be achieved only via fair elections. In 1992 Eduard Shevardnadze was elected as a head of the parliament of the Republic of Georgia. Obviously, Shevardnadze was in a difficult political situation. He needed support from the international community. Shortly after the elections, President of the U.S. George W. Bush congratulated him.

  Shevardnadze also recalled that according to Baker’s statement, the United States aimed at the contribution to the establishment and development of new Georgia. In addition, Baker underlined the fact that the U.S. recognized Georgia's independence as well as the independence of other former Soviet republics in a very short period of time [Shevardnadze, 2006: 327]. According to Baker, over two centuries, the U.S. had consistently defended the principles of democracy and liberty and the attitude of other countries towards them was quite important. If the U.S. had suspected Georgia in non-supporting these principles, now it was convinced that Georgia was a devoted supporter of freedom and all worldly acknowledged norms [Shevardnadze, 2006:327], especially, when Eduard Shevardnadze was in Georgia [Shevardnadze, 2006:327]. It was May 25. On  26 May Georgia celebrated the 74th anniversary of the restoration of independence and statehood.

  Shevardnadze mentioned in his memoirs that the celebration of the Day of Independence of Georgia was held at the Philharmonic Grand Concert Hall. The State Secretary of the U.S. addressed the Georgians. In my opinion, his words were truly remarkable. They included political support and encouragement to move forward. Baker congratulated Georgia with independence, freedom and statehood. “If seventy years (and more) before, the U.S. had not wanted to recognize the independence of Georgia, now the Secretary of the State celebrated this remarkable date together with our compatriots” [Shevardnadze, 2006:328].

   Eduard Shevardnadze described how the western media covered James Baker's visit: “A small country of Georgia, which is surrounded by strong neighbors, had many struggles, but after every defeat it arose from the ashes like phoenix” - Robertson Parson [Shevardnadze, 2006: 327].

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Aleksandre Chikvaidze said that Georgia had been in a political isolation for several months and now it started a new political process that would help the country to get an international recognition instead of a political isolation [Chikvaidze, 1992]. Aleksandre Chikvaidze also underlined the difficult economic situation in Georgia and the problems of Georgian financial system. In his opinion, only humanitarian assistance could not resolve severe economic and financial crises in Georgia. Therefore, it was necessary to reconstruct an economic system and stabilize a national currency [Chikvaidze, 1992].

  I believe that although James Baker's visit in Georgia lasted only 24 hours, it was a clear message from the United States of America that Georgia was really in the area of ​​the American geopolitical interests.

  Notwithstanding the fact that President George Bush ended his presidency in 1992, Georgia and America witnessed some real diplomatic consequences in 1992-1993. The political relations between Georgia and the United States developed quite dynamically and efficiently. The last year of George W. Bush's presidency was a starting point of a diplomatic as well as a bilateral cooperation between Georgia and the U.S. This fact determined further diplomatic relations, which became important and strategic in South Caucasus.


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