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Biden in Tbilisi: U.S. support for Georgia is a “bipartisan sentiment”

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden has arrived in Tbilisi for meetings with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. From the pool report by the New York Times‘ Moscow correspondent, Ellen Barry: At 7  p.m., VPOTUS arrived at Saakashvili’s new presidential palace, whose construction began shortly after the Rose Revolution and ended earlier this month – an airy ...

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden has arrived in Tbilisi for meetings with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. From the pool report by the New York Times' Moscow correspondent, Ellen Barry:

At 7  p.m., VPOTUS arrived at Saakashvili's new presidential palace, whose construction began shortly after the Rose Revolution and ended earlier this month - an airy construction with an egg-shaped glass dome constructed at a cost estimated at $40 million. VPOTUS and Saakashvili, along with First Lady Sandra Roelofs, entered a banquet room with 10 tables, glasses of wine and champagne ready, with white roses floating in glass bowls.

At VPOTUS's table were U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, Ms. Roelofs, presidential advisor Natalia Kancheli and deputy interior minister Eka Dzguladze. The dining room overlooked Tbilisi's old city and the Mtkvari River, and the sun was setting as Saakashvili pronounced an emotional toast thanking him for his support during the August war with Russia and presented VPOTUS with the Order of St. George, Georgia's highest state honor.

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden has arrived in Tbilisi for meetings with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. From the pool report by the New York Times‘ Moscow correspondent, Ellen Barry:

At 7  p.m., VPOTUS arrived at Saakashvili’s new presidential palace, whose construction began shortly after the Rose Revolution and ended earlier this month – an airy construction with an egg-shaped glass dome constructed at a cost estimated at $40 million. VPOTUS and Saakashvili, along with First Lady Sandra Roelofs, entered a banquet room with 10 tables, glasses of wine and champagne ready, with white roses floating in glass bowls.

At VPOTUS’s table were U.S. Ambassador John Tefft, Ms. Roelofs, presidential advisor Natalia Kancheli and deputy interior minister Eka Dzguladze. The dining room overlooked Tbilisi’s old city and the Mtkvari River, and the sun was setting as Saakashvili pronounced an emotional toast thanking him for his support during the August war with Russia and presented VPOTUS with the Order of St. George, Georgia’s highest state honor.

"Joe, my dear friend, it is such a great pleasure to have you back in Georgia," he said. He recalled VPOTUS’s trip to Georgia during the war, and said as they were sitting at a nearby restaurant, "Russian aircraft were flying very low over us and you refused to let the waiter turn off the lights at that restaurant." He said Georgia was suffering from "one of the biggest refugee crises per capita that the world has ever seen," comparable to the genocide in Darfur, and called for American help in the crisis.

"As we speak, new bags of cement and barbed wire are being transported, and a new Berlin wall is being built," he said. He recalled that VPOTUS told him in a phone call that VPOTUS would "never, ever abandon" Georgia.

"In America, you can find lots of cynics and realpolitik, but in no other country other than America do idealists ultimately run the show," he said, and presented VPOTUS with a newly published book of photographs of Georgia.

VPOTUS accepted the honor, saying support for Georgia is "a bipartisan sentiment in my country." He said he had come to Georgia "to send an unequivocally clear, simple message to all those who listen and those who don’t listen, that American stands with you now and will continue to stand with you."

In a press call in advance of the trip, Biden’s national security advisor Tony Blinken told reporters that they did not anticipate "guns of August" — a rerun of last summer’s hostilities. Some observers raised eyebrows at Russian President Dmitry Medvedev‘s trip to South Ossetia shortly after meeting with President Barack Obama in Moscow earlier this month. Russia has recognized the territory along with its sister disputed territory of Abkhazia, which declared independence from Georgia, while the United States and nearly all other countries have not.

"One of the messages of the trip," Blinken said, "is to reaffirm and restate what both the Vice President and President have been very clear on … which is that, in the case of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, first of all, the United States is not, will not, recognize them as independent states, and we stand firmly for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. More specifically, we’ve urged Russia and continue to urge Russia to implement the cease-fire agreements of last summer … We’ve urged Russia and continue to urge Russia to fulfill its obligations under the August 2 cease-fire agreement and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1866 to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

Laura Rozen writes The Cable daily at ForeignPolicy.com.

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