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In early March, the governing and opposition parties in the nation of Georgia came together in a historic agreement to reform the country’s electoral laws, and, to once again, affirm the country’s commitment to Western values and to democracy.  

Under the cross-party pact, the number of parliamentary seats chosen by proportional representation were increased. This agreement was an important step forward that will strengthen democracy, stabilize the political environment and reduce polarization” according to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia.  

The talks that produced the agreement were co-facilitated by the U.S. Embassy and European Union Mission in Georgia, with the reforms winning strong backing from the EU and bi-partisan praise in the United States. 

I want to congratulate the Georgian people on achieving the pro-democracy reforms they’ve long fought to achieve,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, (R-Ill.), co-chair of the House Georgia caucus. “…Through compromise and maturity, the necessary steps to secure democracy has finally been reached. 

The overwhelming support demonstrates wide recognition of Georgia’s significant democratic progress, as well as my nation’s commitment to free and fair elections. Our economy has benefited from this commitment, as The Heritage Foundation ranked Georgia 12th in the world and 6th among European nations in economic freedom in its 2020 report. Moreover, this commitment further strengthens a vital relationship that holds tremendous importance for American security interests: the U.S.-Georgia strategic partnership.  

I see that partnership play out every day as Georgia’s ambassador to the United States. 

The U.S.-Georgia relationship has been especially vibrant – and vital to our future – in helping Georgia deter threats coming from outside, including through cyberattacks. 

On October 28th of last year, Georgia was the target of a cyber-attack that knocked thousands of websites offline, including media broadcasts, government agencies, and other services critical to the security and stability of my small nation. Our investigations, backed up by those in the United States and the United Kingdom, concluded that a unit of the Russian military intelligence had launched the attack.  

Georgia is no stranger to this kind of assault by Russia, nor are our neighbors. We were hit by an earlier cyber strike when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, seizing two regions that constitute 20% of our territory, which Russia still occupies.  

Russia engages in this behavior because until recently, it incurred few costs for doing so. Fortunately this is starting to change – thanks to Georgia’s unstinting support from the West, especially the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo underlined the evolving landscape while condemning last month’s attacks on Georgia. “This action contradicts Russia’s claim it is a responsible actor in cyber space and demonstrates a continuing pattern of reckless Russian [military intelligence] cyber operations against a number of countries,” he said. “These operations aim to sow division, create insecurity and undermine democratic institutions. 

Georgia is grateful for President Trump and Secretary Pompeo’s direct language, along with Congress’s strong bi-partisan support in the Georgia Support Act,” passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in October 2019. The legislation, which is now making its way through the Senate, calls for more U.S. support and cooperation to deter Russian cyber threats – and, notably, “recognizes Georgia’s commitment to democratic values, including free and fair elections.”  

In a rarity in these polarized times, the bill passed the House unanimously. We urge the U.S. Senate to support its passage. 

Top U.S. officials have also signaled that Georgia should eventually become a full member of NATO, which already says it considers Georgia “one of the Alliance’s closest partners.” Georgia is ready for this role, and it has stepped up countless times by sending troops on NATO missions such as support in Afghanistan. 

As Black Sea security assumes a larger profile in Western strategic deliberations, Georgia’s long Black Sea coastline, geographic proximity to the strategic Bosporus waterway, and our growing attachment to NATO will become ever more important. Georgia’s territorial defense efforts will also benefit from a new U.S. shipment of sophisticated portable Javelin anti-tank missiles, intended to boost our nation’s defensive capabilities 

The evolving close ties between Georgia, the United States and other Western nations symbolize a powerful truth: Georgia’s commitment to Western values and ideals is unwavering. Working together in the face of significant threats and emerging challenges is the only imaginable way forward.  

David Bakradze is the Georgian Ambassador to the United States. The views expressed are the author's own.