I thank the chairman of the committee and the ranking member for their support on this legislation. Mr. Speaker, I was in Georgia in 2008 when the Russians invaded that sovereign country and took one-fifth of their nation away from them. I saw the Russian tanks on the hill, and, unfortunately, many years later, those Russian tanks are still on the hills of Georgia.
Russia is a cancer in the area. It is trying to infiltrate countries in the region, trying to spread its propaganda and conquering ideas to the former Soviet Republics. Russian troops maintain a stranglehold on the occupied territories of Georgia. Russians have forced ethnic Georgians to leave and have forbidden everyone who still lives there from speaking the Georgian language or from traveling to Georgia.
The illegal Russian occupation of Georgia is not a simple matter of territory—it is an attack on ideas; it is an assault on the very freedoms and liberties that are God given. Georgia is a small and young democracy despite the rough neighborhood that it lives in—surrounded by corrupt dictators, including Russia.
In fact, over the past 25 years, Georgia has become the freest nation in the region. It has championed good governance, economic reform, and democracy while combating corruption and ensuring press freedom. This is no small achievement. I have met with the first Georgian Government and the second Georgian Government and have met with many of their officials.
Mostly, I have met with the people of Georgia, and they are freedom-loving individuals. Georgia sets up a strong contrast to the authoritarian Putin up north. Putin does not like having a beacon of freedom shining brightly from the south with his imperial aggression kingdom looking down on them. This is exactly why Putin decided to invade Georgia 8 years ago.
Georgia represents the democratic potential in the region. Putin would like nothing more than to cause unrest and turmoil in Georgia, like he has done in other nations, including in Ukraine. Georgia is a strong ally of the United States. Georgia has more troops in Afghanistan who are fighting alongside our troops than any non-NATO ally, and it has made hard reforms in order to join NATO and the European Union.
This resolution expresses our solidarity with Georgia. I am proud to be a co-chair, along with the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. CONNOLLY), of the Georgia Caucus. This resolution condemns Russia’s illegal occupation of Georgian territory, and it sends a clear message to Putin that the United States will never recognize his control over any part of Georgia.
Our friends in Georgia and the region must know that the United States will not waver in its longstanding support for its allies in the face of the Napoleon of Siberia. We must be clear about our commitment to our friends. Instead of retreating from the world stage, the United States must deepen its relationships with our allies. Georgia is a valuable ally threatened by the cold Russian winds of authoritarianism.
John F. Kennedy, our President 50 years ago,said that we would support any friend who believes in freedom. It is time we step up and support the nation of Georgia. I urge my colleagues to support this important resolution and send a signal to our enemies and our friends all over the world that the United States means it when it says it will support its allies.
And that is just the way it is.