The Blog

Georgia Joins Growing List of Snubbed U.S. Allies

Hugs for thugs, and a blind eye to allies.

1:24 PM, Apr 14, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

As if President Obama's foreign policy hasn't come under enough fire for its warm embrace of the world's misfits and shabby treatment of allies, Jackson Diehl reports:  

Forty-seven world leaders are Barack Obama’s guests in Washington Tuesday at the nuclear security summit. Obama is holding bilateral meetings with just 12 of them. That’s led to some awkward exclusions -- and some unfortunate appearances, as well.

One of those left out was Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, who got a phone call from Obama last week instead of a meeting in Washington. His exclusion must have prompted broad smiles in Moscow, where Saakashvili is considered public enemy no. 1 -- a leader whom Russia tried to topple by force in the summer of 2008. After all, Obama met with Viktor Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine and a friend of the Kremlin. And he is also meeting with the leaders of two of Georgia’s neighbors -- Armenia and Turkey, both of which enjoy excellent relations with Russia.

So is Saakashvili -- a democratically elected leader whose ambition is to lead his country into NATO -- being snubbed in order to please Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev? The White House would insist no. The summit is about nuclear security; Yanukovych got an appointment because Ukraine agreed to give up 60 tons of highly enriched uranium that it now uses in research reactors. Turkey and Armenia are seeing Obama because the administration hopes to press them to move forward with an agreement on opening borders -- a deal that would benefit everyone in the Caucasus.

Still, Saakashvili’s exclusion from the bilateral schedule is striking considering his strong support for U.S. interests, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Georgia sent as many as 2,000 troops from its tiny army to Iraq. It will soon have nearly 1,000 in Afghanistan; 750 are being sent to fight under U.S. command. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke noted last month that Georgia’s per capita troop contribution would be the highest of any country in the world.

In fairness to the president, there was no way he could personally meet with all 47 leaders in attendance. But surely there were more important things to discuss with the Georgians, which--along with nuclear security--included the recent invasion of their country, the pending sale of a French Mistral class amphibious assault ship to the Russian Navy, the support of the logistically critical northern distribution network to Afghanistan, and the cessation of the unofficial arms embargo to the southern Caucasus republic (ammunition being somewhat important when battling the Taliban).

Considering the president's poor reputation as a shabby custodian of America's most vital alliances, one would think the loyal Georgians would receive more than a phone a call. But that's the nutshell synopsis of the Obama doctrine: Hugs for thugs, and a blind eye to allies.

Recent Blog Posts