Deputy Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Eric Rubin has expressed support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and its integration into NATO.
The parliamentary elections in Georgia were one of the main issues in Rubin’s speech at the U.S. Centre for National Interests on Friday.
Rubin spoke about the reforms carried out in Georgia, and stressed the importance of cooperation between the old and the new government.
“I would like to make note of what I saw in Tbilisi last week. After a heated election campaign both sides began to work for a peaceful transfer of power. This has started well and the parties are working constructively,” the Deputy Secretary of State stated.
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Eric Rubin, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, is touring Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia to promote democracy and cooperation and develop partnership on the issues of Syria and Iran.
The media in Azerbaijan reports that Rubin’s visit to Georgia focused on economic issues, civil freedoms and Nagorno-Karabakh.
The US Embassy in Armenia’s press service said Rubin would attend a meeting of the US-Armenian group on economic cooperation to discuss stimulating investment in energy and trade, as well as nuclear power.
The agenda for high-ranking Washington officials’ visits to the South Caucasus seldom varies, and this is not simply because Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia face largely similar problems, but also for ethical reasons. Washington wants to convince them that they are all equal partners. Therefore, if Rubin talked about Iran in Georgia, he did or will do the same in the other two South Caucasus states.
“During the meetings with the President and future Prime Minister of Georgia, we discussed the international community’s efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” Rubin told a press briefing at the US Embassy in Tbilisi as quoted by Azernews. “We are broadly cooperating over the Turkish-Syrian issue, and Georgia is called upon to play a peacekeeping role in the region.”
However, some Georgian experts believe that Rubin met with Mikheil Saakashvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili to probe Georgia’s attitude to Iran, where Washington will want Georgia to play a special role if the situation escalates.
Georgian politician Irina Sarishvili said before Rubin’s visit that many hospitals built in Georgia recently under a presidential program bear an alarming likeness to standard US military hospitals. Considering the speedy modernization and construction of airports for heavy transport planes and other infrastructure improvements, this could be more than straightforward concern for the Georgians.
Eric Rubin also said in Tbilisi, clearly referring to Russian bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that “the US position regarding the obligations that Russia undertook in 2008 to withdraw its troops from the Georgian territory remain unchanged.” He said the US stance on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia is firm and clear.
Commenting on the recent parliamentary election, Rubin congratulated Ivanishvili on the victory and praised Saakashvili’s personal contribution to positive developments in Georgia. He said the world can see that democracy in Georgia is real, and that the country can become a model for the region.
Rubin also met with ministerial nominees, notably Irakly Alasania who is slated to become the Defense Minister. Alasania assured him that Georgia would honor its commitments in Afghanistan. In response, Rubin said that Washington would redouble its efforts to promote Georgia’s rapprochement with NATO.
The US official refused to comment on Ivanishvili’s plans to participate in the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. He said he was pleased with Saakashvili’s assurances that Georgia is committed to strengthening ties with Euro-Atlantic organizations and the United States, and to guaranteeing press freedom.
Bidzina Ivanishvili and Commander of the U.S. Marine Corps in Europe, Lt Gen John M. Paxton, outside Ivanishvili’s compound in Tbilisi.
Photo: Ivanishvili’s press office
Tbilisi – Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream coalition won the parliamentary elections, said Georgia, which has two battalions stationed in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, would “definitely continue” cooperation with the U.S. over Afghanistan.
He made the remarks on October 5 after meeting with commander of the U.S. Marine Corps in Europe, Lt Gen John M. Paxton, who is visiting Georgia.
“Georgia has been a very valuable and trusted ally for many years; we work very closely together in Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand province and we have enjoyed a great relationship trying to develop NCO leadership, officer skills and work on enhanced security cooperation,” Lt Gen Paxton said after the meeting.
“We are here to congratulate Mr. Ivanishvili and to wish him a smooth transition of power. We are here to just reaffirm that the United States stands by Georgia,” he said and added he was looking forward not only to working relationship in Afghanistan but also to continued good relations in years ahead.
“This was my first meeting with the U.S. military, who have provided a huge assistance to establishing of the Georgian army and to its reforms in line with the NATO standards,” Ivanishvili said. “I knew it, but I was very glad to hear that Georgian [troops] have special importance in the NATO forces [in Afghanistan] and that together with the U.S. [troops] are [performing combat duties] in difficult areas”
“Of course we should do everything possible in order to [continue] our partnership with the United States in Afghanistan and in such hotspots,” Ivanishvili said and added that Georgia was playing “a role of a real junior friend” to the United States and “we will definitely continue cooperation in the future too.”
The Commander of U.S. Marine Corps in Europe met on October 5 with Chief of Joint Staff of the Georgian armed force Lt Gen Devi Chankotadze.
“The sides focused on an enhanced military cooperation between the countries. Chief of JS underlined that Georgia will continue cooperation with the United States in the same format and stressed the role the U.S. plays in modernization of the Georgian army and in developing interoperability with NATO,” the Georgian Ministry of Defense said. “Lt Gen Devi Chankotadze affirmed that Georgia stands ready to continue cooperation with NATO and the United States in the post-ISAF period too.”
Also on October 5, the Commander of U.S. Marine Corps in Europe visited National Training Centre, Krtsanisi, outside Tbilisi where he attended training of the Georgian servicemen, who are gearing up for the Afghan deployment.
- New Georgian Leader A Man With a Past – On K Street (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- U.S. and Georgia armed forces commanders discuss the prospects of deepening cooperation (en.trend.az)
Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili conceded defeat yesterday in a close contest with the Georgia Dream party, a new coalition created by billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili. Ivanishvili is now considered the likely next prime minister of Georgia.
While this result might have foreign relations consequences in the Caucuses, Ivanishvili’s win will also have surprising repercussions on Washington’s K Street.
Since late in 2011, Ivanishvili has spent $1.4 million hiring prominent D.C. lobbyists to represent him to the U.S. House, Senate, Department of State, and even the White House. Among the issues that his lobbyists report discussing? Free and fair elections in Georgia, international banking, and “facilitating communication with U.S. government officials.”
Currently ranked 153rd on Forbes’ list of billionaires, Ivanishvili accumulated his wealth buying and selling companies — primarily in the mining and banking industries — as Russia and other Soviet Bloc countries moved towards privatization. The largest was the Russian bank Rossiysky Kredit Bank. He’s used some of his reported $6.4 billion fortune to create a private zoo, buy several works of art by Pablo Picasso, and build a large glass house on the outskirts of the Georgian capital city Tiblisi, according to the Guardian.
In the lobbying world, Patton Boggs LLP has been the greatest beneficiary of Ivanishvili’s wealth, earning $760,000 from him so far this year. Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., one of the firm’s senior partners, lists Ivanishvili as one of his five clients. Former Republican Sen. Steven Symms of Idaho has also represented him.
When Ivanishvili assumes office, he will not need to sever contact with the firms he has employed this year, but they will need to change how they disclose their work. Instead of the traditional quarterly lobbying forms filed with the Senate, they’ll be required to turn in biannual Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) reports to the Justice Department. Federal regulations require that anyone representing a political party or government must file with the Justice Department; individuals who do not directly represent a government interest are allowed to register with the House and Senate instead.
In August, Patton Boggs, National Strategies LLC, and Downey McGrath all filed reports with the Justice Department listing Ivanishvili as a foreign agent they represent. Saakashvili, the outgoing prime minister, has also employed some help in Washington — his office recently hiredFianna Strategies to explain its policies and programs to relevant U.S. offices.
Free and fair elections are mentioned on nearly every lobbying form filed by Ivanishvili’s hired firms. But Transparency International Georgia, an NGO focused on electoral transparency, recently published a report indicating that the electoral climate in Georgia is still fraught with electoral violations. The report cites evidence of both the ruling party and Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream Party attempting to bribe voters, as well as evidence that the ruling party had recently set up rules to unfairly benefit the party in power.
The report also mentions that a Georgian Court found Ivanishvili guilty of making illegal donations and charged him the equivalent of $89 million, an amount which was later cut in half. Ivanishvili refused to pay, and hired Georgian politician Tedo Japaridze to represent his interests before the U.S.
While it is unusual for individuals to hire lobbyists directly, it isn’t unheard of. Although Ivanishvili has spent far more than any other individual on lobbying this year, Aliya Aliyeva spent $160,000 so far this year attempting to raise awareness about Azerbaijani political prisoners Farhad and Rafiq Aliyeva. Similarly, Oleksandar Tymoshenko spent $140,000 this year advocating for the release of his wife, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison. Even American citizens occasionally directly hire lobbyists — former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson, the second largest individual lobbying client, has thus far spent $180,000 lobbying. Robertson is also a prominent donor to Restore our Future, a super PAC supporting GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Violating the Privacy Rights of Students
In 2006, Marlyn, a mother who lives in Gwinnett County with her children, was surprised to hear that her son Kyle, a senior at Brookwood High School, had taken the ASVAB test. ASVAB or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test is the military’s entrance exam, given to recruits to determine their aptitude for military occupations. Marlyn does not recall consenting to her son’s taking of the test or for the results to be sent to military recruiters. Her son did not know either that the results will be sent to recruiters. Kyle was subsequently contacted by recruiters and Marlyn had a tough time getting them to stop once Kyle had made a college selection.
Marlyn and Kyle are certainly not alone. In fact, Georgia’s record in terms of protecting the privacy of students who take the ASVAB test has gotten even worse over the years.
With the start of the school year, the ACLU Foundation of Georgia sent a letter to Georgia’s State School Superintendent, Dr. Barge, asking for protection of privacy rights of Georgia’s high school students who take the ASVAB. Even without a student’s or parent’s consent, the ASVAB test may be used to send highly sensitive information about a student to the military for purposes of recruitment. After the administration of the ASVAB test, military representatives may directly communicate with youth to suggest military career paths, based on the individualized profiles ascertained from their test data.
U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) Regulation 601-4 identifies the options schools may choose regarding the administration and release of their students’ ASVAB results. These options include Option 8, which provides high schools and their students with the students’ test results, but does not entail automatically sending the results to military recruiters.
In its letter, the ACLU of Georgia asks that a state-wide policy that requires schools to protect such information be adopted in Georgia, specifically, a policy that requires the selection of option 8 by school officials.
States such as Maryland and Hawaii and cities such as New York City have required that their public schools respect student privacy by enacting laws and policies in which schools must choose Option 8 when the ASVAB test is administered.
In documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, not a single high school in Georgia selected option 8 during the 2010-2011 school year, while the ASVAB test results of more than 26,000 students was marked by Options 1-6, meaning test results and student information may be released to recruiters without prior consent. The data for 2011 covering more than 29,000 students indicates the same.
If school officials do not select a release option, the school’s Educational Support Specialist will select Option 1 which entails automatically releasing the information to military recruiters. In 2009-2010, 83.9% of the children in Georgia were tested under Option 1. This percentage had increased to 87.7% of Georgia’s students in 2010-2011.
This lack of protection for students’ privacy also contravenes the obligations of the U.S. government and the State of Georgia under international law.
The U.S. ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2002. The Protocol is therefore binding on the U.S. government and state and local government entities and agents, including Georgia public schools.
As part of the treaty mechanism, the U.S. has to submit a report every four years to the Committee on Rights of the Child (CRC), the United Nations body that monitors compliance with the Optional Protocol.
The U.S. government’s latest report to the CRC will be reviewed by the Committee in January 2013. The list of issues to be discussed during this review includes the use of the ASVAB test in schools including the age of children who were given this test and whether parents have the possibility to prevent their children from taking it.
We hope that this will be an opportunity for the U.S. government and Georgia schools to provide needed transparency and to be held accountable to their international obligations as well as obligations to protect the privacy of Georgia students.
Azadeh Shahshahani is the Director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia. She is the president-elect of the National Lawyers’ Guild.
Salecia Johnson was accused of tearing items off the walls and throwing books and toys in an outburst at the principal’s office at Creekside Elementary, police said. According to the police, she also threw a small shelf that struck the principal in the leg, and jumped on a paper shredder and tried to break a glass frame.
She “was restrained by placing her hands behind her back and handcuffed,” police said, defending the action as a safety measure.
Salecia was transported to the Milledgeville Police Department where her handcuffs were removed and she was placed in a patrol briefing room.
A juvenile complaint has been filed against Salecia, accusing the girl of simple assault and damage to property.
The girl’s family demanded Tuesday that their city in central Georgia change policy so that other children won’t receive the same treatment.
“We would not like to see this happen to another child, because it’s horrifying. It’s devastating”, the girl’s aunt, Candace Ruff, said, adding that the girl was terrified by the ordeal.
The girl’s family is also furious that law enforcement officials got involved in a situation viewed as a school disciplinary issue.
“What is the purpose of counselors and other aides in the school system when they just call law enforcement to calm a child when they act out?” her aunt said.
Her mother, Constance Ruff, said the girl has been suspended and can’t return to school until August.
Tbilisi – U.S. Ambassador-designate to Georgia, Richard Norland, outlined priority areas of U.S. cooperation with its “reliable partner”, Georgia, during a nomination hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 21, saying that upcoming elections would be “a very important litmus test” for Georgia’s NATO aspiration. [...]
He reiterated the U.S. support to Georgia’s NATO aspirations and said that the Alliance’s upcoming summit in Chicago would provide an opportunity “to highlight Georgia’s progress towards meeting membership criteria, as well as its significant partnership contributions.”
He stressed on importance of Georgia’s contribution to the Afghan operations, where “brave” Georgian soldiers operate without caveats in the Helmand province, noting that Georgia would become the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF after it deploys an additional battalion in Afghanistan this fall.
Responding to Republican Senator Richard Lugar’s question about Georgia’s NATO integration, the Ambassador-designate said that the Alliance had already declared that Georgia would become a NATO member.
“So the issue really has to do [with] how and when,” Norland said. “There is no single path to NATO membership. As it stands now, I understand, the Annual National Program and the NATO-Georgia [Commission] are the primary mechanisms to which Georgia and the Allies are pursuing the issue of Georgia’s membership.”
He also said that “a lot of emphasis” was also placed on steps Georgia was already taking, including its contribution to the ISAF mission, defense reforms, as well as steps towards democratic and economic reforms.
“These are all part of the package that go[es] into meeting the criteria for NATO membership,” Norland said.
He said that “serious efforts” were being undertaken by the U.S. administration to use upcoming NATO summit in Chicago “to signal acknowledgment for Georgia’s progress in these areas and to work with the Allies to develop a consensus on the next steps forward.” … Full article
- A New NATO Ally? (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- U.S. and NATO are on the march worldwide – Part II (alhittin.com)
- ‘US builds hospitals in Georgia, readies for war with Iran’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)