US bill supports Georgia but denies country ‘non-NATO ally’ status

The Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014 passed both houses of Congress and was sent to President Obama to either sign or veto it., 16 Dec 2014 - 16:33, Tbilisi,Georgia

The United States (US) Congress has passed a bill that could see Georgia enjoy more financial and military support from the United States but it will not become a "major non-NATO ally”.

Last week US Congress passed a revised version of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, where lawmakers dropped a key provision that would have taken the rare step of giving major non-NATO ally status to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

However the document, which was approved by the Senate and House of Representatives and then sent to President Barack Obama to either sign or veto it, envisaged offering financial and military support to these counties.

If signed by Obama, the bill will apply sanctions to Rosoboronexport, Russia’s major state arms exporter or any other country deemed to be involved in transferring weapons to Syria or "Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova; and ... any other country designated by the President as a country of significant concern ... such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the Central Asia republics" against the will of the "internationally recognised governments" of those countries.

The document also called for sanctions if the Russian state gas company Gazprom withholds gas from those countries.

Meanwhile the bill stated a need for more Russian-language broadcasting in post-Soviet countries in a bid to counteract "Russian Federation propaganda”.

The bill directed Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to submit to Congress a plan for increasing the quantity of Russian-language broadcasting in Georgia and other ex-Soviet nations. The plan was required to prioritise broadcasting in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine via the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Separately, Congress also passed the government spending bill that included $810 million for the European Reassurance Initiative. Of that, $57 million would be for "building partner capacity" (eg. training and equipping) in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Tbilisi welcomed the bill. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, press speaker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs David Kereselidze said:

"This bill was supported by two major political parties - the Democratic and Republicans of the US – so not only the governmental structures support Georgia.”

When the Ukraine Freedom Support Act was first drafted in September it was believed Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine would be granted the status of US "major non-NATO ally”. However, shortly after the bill was first discussed, President Obama told Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko this would probably not happen.

Consequently, adopting the bill without granting this status to the three countries was not "a subject of big disappointment” in Tbilisi.

Georgia’s former State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alex Petriashvil said the bill would see the US help Georgia improve its defence capabilities and this was what mattered.