Russia Still Occupies Georgian Territory Ten Years Later
Ten years ago, Russian tanks rolled across the border into the independent nation of Georgia. I was there and saw the little green men with my own eyes.
After five days of bloody fighting, with thousands of innocent Georgians displaced from their homes, the conflict ended with a pledge by Russia to pull back its forces.
Ten years later, however, Moscow's troops remain on Georgian territory, occupying a third of the country. The Kremlin claims these Russian troops in Georgia are just noble peacekeepers, but this is a bold-faced lie.
They are a heavily armed battle-group waiting to provoke tiny Georgia into another fight.
They routinely engage in "creeping occupation,'' slowly taking more and more territory by moving the border line in the dark of night.
They have committed horrific human rights abuses against the Georgian people, often harassing civilians and denying Georgians the ability to move about their country freely.
The continued presence of Russian troops on Georgian soil presents a major violation of international law, setting a precedent for other rogue regimes to follow.
America's response at the time was condemnation and sanctions but this proved insufficient to fully deter future aggression. Only years later, the Obama administration removed the punishing sanctions against Russia as part of its foolish ``reset'' with the Kremlin.
We now know this demonstration of weakness only encouraged further aggression from Russia, with it again invading a neighboring state in 2014. This time, it seized and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, another independent sovereign state that Russia had sworn to respect.
After 10 years of illegal occupation of Georgian territory, we need to do more to help our Georgian friends resist the Russian bear. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia emerged as a beacon of hope in a region full of turmoil and corruption.
This is exactly why Russia invaded. Russia hoped to break this beacon of hope 10 years ago, but Georgia has remained defiant. We must be defiant with our friends to prevent further acts of aggression and hopefully begin to reverse Moscow's deadly expansionism.
As co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, I have long seen that major vulnerabilities remain that Russia could exploit. While military cooperation and training has improved significantly, Georgia still lacks the technology and resources to realistically deter and defend itself from future Russian aggression.
Georgia is a small country, with a GDP around $14 billion. It cannot afford to compete with the might of the Russian military alone. That is why I have introduced H.R. 6219, the Georgia Support Act, with my Georgia Caucus co-chair, Rep. Connolly.
Through this important bill, we hope to significantly enhance Georgia's ability to combat and deter Moscow's wicked activities.
Putin must be shown that his dream of rebuilding the Soviet Empire is impossible. And we must show our freedom loving friends around the globe that America is ready and able to stand with them in the face of foreign oppression.
The Georgian people have shown they will fight for their freedom, even against overwhelming odds. And while the Kremlin believes that it has prevented Georgia's aspirations of joining NATO by seizing its territory, we can send a signal that their victory is hollow.
The days of conquering your neighbor are over. As cunning as Putin may be, he will never be Napoleon. Georgia is still on the path towards greater integration with the West.
Georgia will remain free and prosperous. And Russia will find itself isolated and full of regret for ever following Putin's foolish ambition.
And that's just the way it is.