By Josiah Helms
Patrick Henry College
Senior Counselor George Kaladze
As one of the United States’ staunchest allies, Georgia has maintained the third largest presence in the war on Iraq and continues to hold enormous strategic significance in U.S. relations with the republics of the former Soviet Union. On Thursday afternoon, Feb. 12, a diplomatic contingent from Georgia arrived at Patrick Henry College to speak with students from PHC and Liberty University about the Georgian political scene in the devastating aftermath of its invasion by Russia in August 2008.
After a lunch with Georgian delegates, international relations students huddled into Nash Auditorium to hear an introduction by Dr. Steve Bowers, Professor of Government at Liberty University and head of PHC’s summer “spy” camp. Comments from the two delegates—Senior Counselor George Kaladze and Deputy Chief of Mission Malkhaz Mikeladze—followed, as Senior Counselor Michael Darchiashvili stood by.
Kaladze stressed that he was very happy to address PHC because he knew what he said would be thoughtfully considered. “I feel like I can reach many people here,” he said, even though there might be larger audiences elsewhere.
He noted that, in a world in which the U.S. is fighting to regain a measure of international prestige, Georgia remains an openly pro-American country that has made significant contributions to culture, literature, and art. Kaladze described the factors that set the stage for the Russian invasion of Georgia and the ensuing war, while Malkhaz detailed the tragic consequences of the war and Georgian efforts for recovery in a post-war country.
International observers place the conflict between the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and Russia squarely in the context of renewed, cold war-style tensions, as well as a struggle between Russia and—given Georgia’s "pro-American" politics—the United States for regional influence. Since August 2008, the U.S. Congress has supported Georgian attempts at recovery. Senators Joe Biden and John McCain have both visited Georgia, and Sen. John Kerry tried to coordinate an assistance package immediately following the attacks.
Noted Bowers: “As Americans we’re sincerely grateful for what they do.” Still, he acknowledged that he fears Georgia is becoming part of a new Cold War.