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In Georgia, Cheney Blasts Russian Actions

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Vice President Dick Cheney stood alongside the president of Georgia today and promised American support. In a visit to the Georgian Capital, Tbilisi, Cheney condemned last month's Russian invasion.

NPR's Mike Shuster reports from Georgia on the Vice President's visit.

MIKE SHUSTER: The people of the United States stand in solidarity with the people of Georgia, Vice President Cheney declared, from the beginning of the democratic revolution here six years ago through the current crisis with Russia.

Vice President DICK CHENEY (United States): After your nation won its freedom in the Rose Revolution, America came to the aid of this courageous, young democracy. We are doing so again, as you work to overcome an invasion of your sovereign territory and an illegitimate, unilateral attempt to change your country's borders by force that has been universally condemned by the free world.

SHUSTER: With Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili standing next to him, Cheney pledged that the U.S. will fully support membership for Georgia in NATO. You will be in our alliance, he said. That's a goal Saakashvili desperately seeks. The clash with Russia has left his military shattered, and Georgia has no defense at the moment should Russia decide to intervene once again.

Moscow views NATO membership for Georgia as a military threat. But it was clear from Cheney's remarks that for the moment, there is little respect in Washington for Russia's concerns.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Russia's actions have cast grave doubt on Russia's intentions and on its reliability as an international partner not just in Georgia but across this region and, indeed, throughout the international system.

SHUSTER: As for concrete support for Georgia, yesterday, the White House announced a billion-dollar aid package in humanitarian relief supplies, support for the resettlement of persons displaced by the fighting and resources for reconstruction. This is a huge increase from the current $30 million the U.S. has provided.

It is known that the Georgian government would also like military aid from the U.S. to rebuild its army. So far, the Bush administration has not signaled whether it will take that step which could further inflame relations with Russia.

For his part, President Saakashvili expressed his gratitude that the U.S. and, indeed, many other nations of the world, have stood with Georgia and condemned Moscow's actions.

President MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI (Georgia): We feel that we are not alone. We feel that a great community of nations, from the European Union, United States, Japan, other responsible nations, China, are standing by Georgia. I think we will endure, we'll prosper and we'll succeed.

SHUSTER: In a sign that the U.S. is uneasy about the security of other former Republics of the Soviet Union on Russia's periphery, Cheney was in oil rich Azerbaijan yesterday. Next, he will be in Ukraine where there is also great concern about potential conflict with Russia.

Mike Shuster, NPR News, Tbilisi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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