Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili held high-profile White House meetings today with President Obama, who promised to help expand trade between the two nations and support the Georgian military’s reconstruction.
The visit was aimed at bolstering Georgia’s ambitions to join NATO, which are supported loudly by the US but appear overwhelmingly opposed across the rest of the alliance. The elephant in the room was the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
In that brief war, Georgia attacked Russian forces in the secessionist enclave of South Ossetia. The result was massive Russian retaliation, which destroyed much of Georgia’s military and saw both South Ossetia and Abkhazia declaring formal independence from Georgia.
The US has refused to recognize the new republics, and even today Obama reiterated his support for Georgia’s “territorial integrity,” including reclaiming both of those territories. Saakashvili has vowed to reclaim them by any means necessary, but both have reached security deals with Russia which make such a reunification virtually impossible.
The security arrangements also stand in the way of Georgia’s NATO ambitions, as the alliance is never going to agree to admit the nation given the current situation on the ground. Both sides were careful not to mention the war in today’s talks, but it will cast a big shadow over all dealings with the Georgians going forward.