Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense James Mattis,
The Pentagon, Washington, DC,
Nov. 13, 2017
Minister Izoria, Ambassador Bakradze, military officers, members of the delegation, welcome to the Pentagon. Minister, it is good to meet you again after seeing each other last at the NATO-Georgia Commission in Brussels in February. And Deputy Chikovani, we were together in Kyiv in August. It is good to have you here. Your representatives are always welcome here.
We meet this week as our two countries prepare for celebratory feasts next Thursday – St. George’s day in Georgia and Thanksgiving here. I wish your nation a very happy holiday in honor of your patron saint – immortalized as a defender of the Georgian people.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Georgia & the U.S., and 2018 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Bucharest Pledge that Georgia will one day become a NATO member. Our countries have stood by one another in friendship and solidarity since Georgia chose to join the community of democratic nations a quarter century ago.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the Russian-Georgian war. As Vice President Pence said during his visit to Tbilisi this summer, “America stands with Georgia.” This commitment is underpinned by our nations’ shared values of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and respect for the rules-based international order.
Minister Izoria, your Prime Minister’s affirmation to stand with us in Afghanistan until the last U.S. soldier leaves is a powerful and deeply appreciated signal of our nations’ friendship and strategic partnership.
We recognize your nation as the largest per capita and non-NATO force contributor to the mission. With 871 troops continuously deployed, Georgia is an example for all. We honor the 32 Georgian soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of this cause, and your wounded, many of whom have suffered grievous injuries in our fight against terrorism.
As we look to the future, the U.S. strongly supports Georgia’s devotion to strengthening and modernizing its military capabilities with 2.2% of your GDP dedicated to defense spending. This shows your commitment to your military defense. Your military reforms are well-tuned to significantly improve the Georgian military’s increasing effectiveness, and we endorse them.
Minister, members of the delegation, I look forward to discussing our efforts to work together. Thank you for making the trip. It is good to see you, and you are most welcome here.
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