In His Element

by Nathan Hamm on 5/10/2005 · 1 comment

Love him or hate him, Bush in Georgia is Bush in his element. Both Tim Russo and Curzon point to stories on his first night in Tbilisi. He defintely sounded looser than normal.

Saakashvili arranged for an elaborate series of dance shows. Every time one ended, another began and the boyish 37-year-old Georgian president kept glancing over to see if Bush was enjoying himself.

It seemed he was. Bush ended up clapping enthusiastically, bobbing his head to the beat and finally gyrating his hips. He got so excited that he jumped onto the stage and posed for pictures. “Yeah! Yeah!” he yelled, cheering a 6-year-old boy who danced with furious energy.

He even let himself be talked into an impromptu dinner at a restaurant with Saakashvili and his wife, something he rarely does, stretching the 30-minute window allotted for his arrival to a full hour and 46 minutes.

“Great food,” he exclaimed on leaving. “Really good food. I recommend getting a bite here.”

I’ll bet. Georgian food can’t be beat. Try the khachapuri.

All enjoyment aside though, this trip is of enormous significance to Georgia and the Caucasus, a sentiment succinctly stated by Onnik at Blogrel. EurasiaNet discusses the visit in terms of the domestic and regional meaning. For Georgia and the Caucasus, Bush’s visit is an endorsement of the ideals of the Rose Revolution and a clear signal to Russia that we don’t take their efforts to weaken Georgia lightly (a continuation on the “we’ve got your back theme in the Baltics”).

Of broader significance though, Bush’s statement recognized Georgia as a partner and example for spreading democracy throughout the world and called for the country’s integration with the West.

As you build free institutions at home, the ties that bind our nations will grow deeper, as well. We respect Georgia’s desire to join the institutions of Europe. We encourage your closer cooperation with NATO. Georgia’s leaders know that the peaceful resolution of conflict is essential to your integration into the transatlantic community. At the same time, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected — the territorial [sic] and sovereignty of Georgia must be respected by all nations. (Applause.)

We are living in historic times when freedom is advancing, from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and to the Persian Gulf and beyond. As you watch free people gathering in squares like this across the world, waving their nations’ flags and demanding their God-given rights, you can take pride in this fact: They have been inspired by your example and they take hope in your success. (Applause.)

As you build freedom in this country, you must know that the seeds of liberty you are planting in Georgian soil are flowering across the globe. (Applause.) I have come here to thank you for your courage. The American people value your friendship, and admire your determination. On behalf of all Americans, thank you, God bless you. Sakartvelos gaumarjos. (Applause.)

There’s much more of note in the speech, not the least of which is Bush’s acknowledgment that democracy will not take deep root in Georgia or anywhere else unless strong institutions that support and nourish democratic ideals are created. Also worth pointing out is that he mentioned that there is plenty of work to do not only in the Middle East but also in the Caucasus (Azerbaijan… Armenia…) and Central Asia.

Geopolitics aside, it’s a welcome change–hopefully for all Americans–to see such an enthusiastically warm response to the United States from Georgia. And the enormous crowd of Georgians that turned out to see Bush speak was extremely enthusiastic. Robert Parsons of RFE/RL remarked,

“They were quite an undiscriminating crowd. Every time he [President Bush] said something, they cheered. Of course, every time he referred specifically to Georgia and what Georgians were doing and what Georgia’s contribution to bringing democracy to the rest of the world was, they probably cheered a little bit louder. But I have to say, they cheered every single sentence he uttered.

“On a personal level, I think Georgians feel touched, more than anything else, that George Bush has come to Georgia. It is a gesture of support. I think they understand that it is just a gesture, that it won’t necessarily translate into concrete steps. But it is a sign that, as George Bush said himself, that Georgia doesn’t stand alone, that there is a giant power in the world which sees it as a friend and I think for Georgia, at a time of great difficulty, which this is at the moment, that means something

In fact, Parsons notes that the spontaneity of the trip and Bush’s eagerness to depart from schedule to take everything in had US security freaked out.

Well done.

P.S. Check out this interesting photo from Georgia regarding a demonstration concerning the war in Iraq (from EurasiaNet).

UPDATE: Gateway Pundit has video and more.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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