MINISTER IRAKLI ALASANIA (through translator): General, officers, Georgian military, I'd like to welcome in our country the secretary of defense of the United States of America. And I would like to state that the United States of America is the strongest and most reliable ally our country has that contributes greatly to the enhancement of Georgia's defense capabilities. I'm really proud to state that our military fight side by side, the American military, strengthening and supporting international peace.
We are especially proud that our guest, United States secretary of defense, was a military man himself that was wounded in a combat operation and was awarded.
I'd like again to warmly welcome the secretary of defense of the United States and would like to reiterate that he should be feeling himself as if he is at home here in Georgia.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Thank you.
Minister, thank you very much. (Applause.) To our Georgian hosts and our fellow soldiers, thank you. Thank you for what you do and for your friendship and partnership.
And to our Marines, thank you. We are very proud of you. We are proud of what you do and what you represent and how you do your job. You are important ambassadors for our country, our way of life, and you do as much as any group of people to build bridges all over the world with other nations and other peoples. I want you to know that. President Obama asked me to tell you hello, but he also wanted me to express his deep gratitude for what you do.
I'm particularly pleased to be here with my friend, the Georgian defense minister, who I've gotten to know over the years, but actually met him many, many years ago when I was here as a United States senator. And I know his commitment to the country and people of Georgia, and I know of his commitment to the American-Georgian friendship and partnership.
I think most of you know the minister and I have just returned from the NATO summit in Wales, where I believe a great deal was accomplished, and I think a great deal was accomplished to enhance and expand the relationship among the NATO countries with Georgia.
I wanted to share a couple of thoughts with you, and then we will take a couple of questions.
The three primary priorities that President Obama places on our country, I place on our Department of Defense are these -- people. Every institution is only as good as its people. You take care of your people. Second, capabilities. We can't ask our Marines and our Georgian soldiers to go into combat without the capability and the edge that you must have. Third, an enhancement and enlargement and a focus on partner-building, partner capability-building.
And I know our Georgian friends share the same priorities -- people, capabilities, and partners.
And I believe if there was ever a time in the world that partnerships are going to be important, important not just for the threats we face today, but future threats, unknowns, it is today for the emphasis on those partnerships.
I wanted to come to Georgia right after the NATO summit for many reasons. But a primary reason was to emphasize to our Georgian partners, to the people of Georgia, how the United States values this relationship.
So I very much appreciate my day here, as I have spent time this morning with the defense minister and will this afternoon meet with the president and prime minister to have the opportunities that President Obama wants to assure, that we share our thinking and the continued reassurance and commitment of our partnership and the expansion of that partnership.
And I always feel better when I'm around U.S. Marines.
Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) We're going to take some questions, and then I think we're going to get some photos.
Q: (speaking foreign language) -- (inaudible) – NATO summit has just ended, and the new -- new substantial package has been granted to Georgia in order or enhance order -- to enhance the defensive capabilities and is -- (inaudible) -- of our countries. What implication it would have on U.S. support to -- (inaudible) -- thank you.
SEC. HAGEL: May I get a clarification? Your last point, what it would do --
Q: What implications? What implications?
SEC. HAGEL: Implications.
(UNKNOWN): Vis-a-vis Russia.
SEC. HAGEL: Vis-a-vis Russia.
SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. Well, first, the enhanced partnership status, relationship that Georgia has just received in NATO is going to expand significantly defense capabilities -- training, equipping, partnership possibilities -- for Georgia with all of the NATO partners.
This new status and relationship will give Georgia new capabilities. One of the things that the defense minister and I were discussing this morning are some of the specific areas that we can now take action on to follow through with the new possibilities to provide Georgia wider, deeper military capabilities to defend itself and continue to be an important and effective partner with the United States, as you have been and are in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan.
MINISTER ALASANIA (through translator): I would just add that the Georgian-United States relation with that new status that was -- that Georgia was just granted are not aimed against any nation in the world. These are just with the primary objective of ensuring Georgia's security, ensuring Euro-Atlantic area security, so that will allow Georgia to defend itself and be a valuable partner, of which would protect its interests and -- (inaudible) -- internationally.
Q: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. Sgt. – (inaudible) --, food service specialist from 224 -- (inaudible) -- Chicago, Illinois. We've had -- the United States Marine Corps and the United States military has had a proud relation -- strategic relationship and partnership with Georgia for several years. Can you comment on what are some of the more recent countries that we've partnered with that either hope to be NATO members or just other nations around the world in general? Thank you.
SEC. HAGEL: Let me begin answering your question this way. The five countries that were included in this special partnership were, of course, Georgia, Australia, Finland, Sweden, and Jordan. And each of those three [sic five] countries has played a role, a significant role, an important role in participating in different events and partnering with the United States, and many of the events have included Georgia, as well as other NATO countries.
And as we expand opportunities for more partners to participate with the United States and NATO, this will enhance Georgia, other countries, as we all focus on common interests, common threats, common challenges, and how we, as nations who value freedom and independence and respect for all opinions -- democracy, prosperity -- how all of us can work together to achieve that objective worldwide.
The Georgia-U.S. partnership is, in many ways, a model. What's going on at this base is a model for other partnerships and relationships that will be used in the future. So we build on the relationships, partnerships we have now, what we've accomplished together, as we expand and build out to bring in more countries, and this one, this relationship is particularly important for that reason, among many reasons.
MINISTER ALASANIA (through translator): Briefly, I would like to add that every serviceman and woman in our country, including myself, defense minister, we are really proud to have a chance to train and fight side-by-side the United States Marines. We are really proud to have this strategic relationship. And we truly value and appreciate greatly these special relations that exist here and the input you have and contribution you have to enhance our defense capabilities.
This relationship has lasted for more than 10 years, and we hope that will be the case in future.
SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. (Applause.)