I first visited the US in 1990. The trip from Tbilisi to Denver via Moscow and Washington was tiring in its own right – not to mention the emotions and culture shock of a Soviet teenager coming to the land of freedom as a part of an academic exchange program. But once I had settled in, my time in the Rocky Mountains region ended up being a formative experience and an important first connection with the American people.
The following year, in 1991 Georgia regained its independence and freedom. Since that time, it has been a loyal friend, strategic partner, and key international ally of the United States. And now I find myself back in the US, proudly representing my country as the Ambassador of Georgia.
At the very start of my assignment in Washington, it has been a privilege to witness up-close the transfer of power between two American Presidential administrations.
President Trump's inauguration in Washington was captured by Georgia's newly assigned Ambassador David Bakradze. Video: David Bakradze.
Last week, at a reception with 500 guests at the distinguished Andrew Mellon Auditorium where the North Atlantic Treaty that established NATO was signed in 1949, I was fortunate to exchange views with most of the members of new administration and their families.
We took photos together and enjoyed California wine, but still we could not avoid taliking about our region – the challenges Georgia faces, but also the great opportunities to further advance the close relationship between our two countries.
During the entire transition period through President Trump’s inauguration last Friday, on January 20 2017, the Embassy has been actively engaged in communicating Georgia’s story and policy priorities to members of the Trump’s transition team, key members of the new Administration, members of Congress, and foreign policy experts.
President Trump’s message affirming US leadership on the world stage resonates with Georgia’s focus on creating opportunities for shared prosperity and security.
Ambassador Bakradze said there was "good reason to be optimistic" about US-Georgia relations following the inauguration of the new American president. Video: David Bakradze.
This busy week, which included a number of interesting meetings with new administration officials, thought leaders, and other US counterparts, has reinforced my belief that the bonds between our two nations are strong and that new opportunities will emerge from our strategic partnership based on common values and shared global security priorities.
Our position is clear. Georgia is a reliable partner, ready to work with the US to advance our shared vision for the world.
Georgia has fought shoulder to shoulder with American forces to combat terrorism in the Middle East and around the world.
We have assumed our share of the financial cost of our collective security at levels well above the threshold of 2% of GDP that NATO stipulates should be spent on defense.
And as we look ahead, this collaboration will only continue – not only in the field of security, but also in terms of economic development.
The ceremony in Washington was attended by US officials and foreign dignitaries. Photo: David Bakradze.
The US-Georgia consortium leading the development of the Anaklia deep sea port will help cement Georgia’s role as a key East-West transit hub.
We will also look for ways to expand tourism and cultural exchanges. We are proud that Georgia is increasingly recognized as a great tourism destination for Americans. Georgia was recently ranked #1 on Vogue magazine’s list of hottest travel destinations for 2017.
I see incredible potential to further increase security and economic cooperation between our nations.
I have good reason to be optimistic.
In 2017, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two nations. Looking back at those 25 plus years since I first came to the US, I see a history of constructive bilateral collaboration. I’ve witnessed this first-hand. I’ve seen it in the work of our soldiers on the battlefield, and in the economic projects our companies have pursued together. And I’ve seen it in the form of US support that has helped Georgia advance the rule of law, democracy, and civil society - core values of any freedom loving nation.
As we reaffirm our bilateral ties and begin work with President Trump and his administration, I look forward to the next 25 years of strong cooperation between our countries.