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- As Delivered -

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the United States House of Representatives on a resolution in support of Georgia’s territorial integrity (H.Res.660):

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I rise in support of this measure, and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Mr. Speaker, I’m glad that Mr. Poe said, ‘That’s just the way it is.’ Because I agree. It’s just the way it is.  I agree with everything he says.  And I want to thank him and Mr. Connolly for their work on this very timely resolution.

“Mr. Speaker, it’s clear that Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, is doing everything in his power to steamroll the efforts of the U.S. and our allies over many decades to build a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.   And we shouldn’t forget that the illegal occupation of Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine isn’t the first time he’s trampled on his neighbors’ territorial integrity.

“Last month, we marked eight years since Russian troops moved into Georgia, where they remain to this day.  Now, I believe keeping Georgia out of NATO in 2008 was a terrible mistake.  And indeed, then-President Medvedev cited the Alliance’s failure to put out the welcome mat for Georgia as the signal Russia needed to push across the border.

“Yet even with its sovereignty fractured for eight years, Georgia will soon write another chapter in its history of freedom and democracy by holding parliamentary elections.

“We went to a celebration, and I believe Mr. Poe was there, celebrating the 25th anniversary of freedom from communism by Georgia.  And you really have to—your heart has to go out to the Georgian people—and what they’ve been able to accomplish under very, very adverse circumstances. 

“Georgia was a member of, a part of the Soviet Union for so many years.  It was clear that they didn’t wish to be, but they were forced to be.  And then when the Soviet Union collapsed, Georgia of course was as an independent country and declared so.  But that wasn’t good enough for Mr. Putin.

“So the resolution we’re considering today reaffirms the commitment of the United States to our partners in Georgia.  We believe that Georgia’s territorial integrity should be restored. Just as with Ukraine, we do not recognize Russia’s occupation of parts of that country as legitimate and we never will.  And I think we have to state that again: the Russian occupation of parts of Georgia is illegal and Georgia should remain whole and free.  And the Russians ought to get out. 

“We view Georgia’s democracy and vibrant society as a beacon in an increasingly challenging part of the world.  And we continue to believe that the door should be open for Georgia to work with us.  I continue to believe that the door should remain open to Georgia to both NATO and EU membership.

“I’m glad to support this resolution and I reserve the balance of my time.”