Georgia: Background and U.S. Policy

Georgia is one of the United States’ closest partners among the states that gained their independence after the USSR collapsed in 1991. With a history of strong economic aid and security cooperation, the United States has deepened its strategic partnership with Georgia since Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia and 2014 invasion of Ukraine. U.S. policy expressly supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and Georgia is a leading recipient of U.S. aid to Europe and Eurasia.

Many observers consider Georgia to be one of the most democratic states in the post-Soviet region, even as the country faces ongoing governance challenges. The center-left Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party (GD) holds a dominant political position, with about 70% of seats in parliament. Although Georgia faces high rates of poverty and underemployment, its economy has performed better since 2017 than it did in the previous four years.

Georgia at a Glance

Population: 3.72 million (2019 est.)

Comparative Area: slightly larger than West Virginia

Capital: Tbilisi

Ethnic Composition: 87% Georgian, 6% Azerbaijani, 5% Armenian (2014 census)

Religion: 83% Georgian Orthodox, 11% Muslim, 3% Armenian Apostolic (2014 census)

GDP/GDP per capita: $16.3 billion/$4,400 (2018 est.)

Top Exports: copper ores, beverages, motor vehicles, iron and steel (2018)

Leadership: Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, President Salome Zurabishvili, Defense Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, Parliamentary Chairman Archil Talakvadze

Sources: National Statistics Office of Georgia and International Monetary Fund (does not include Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

The GD led a coalition to victory in parliamentary elections in 2012 amid growing dissatisfaction with the former ruling party, Mikheil Saakashvili’s center-right United National Movement, which came to power as a result of Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution. In August 2008, Russia went to war with Georgia to prevent Saakashvili’s government from reestablishing control over the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s and became informal Russian protectorates.

Congress has expressed firm support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-44, Title II, §253) states that the United States “does not recognize territorial changes effected by force, including the illegal invasions and occupations” of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and other territories occupied by Russia. In September 2016, the House of Representatives passed H.Res. 660, which condemns Russia’s military intervention and occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In the 115th Congress, the House passed the Georgia Support Act (H.R. 6219) by unanimous consent. In the 116th Congress, a similar bill (H.R. 598) was ordered to be reported by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 22, 2019. The bill would express support for Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, as well as for its democratic development, Euro-Atlantic integration, and peaceful conflict resolution in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The United States provides substantial foreign and military aid to Georgia each year. Since 2010, U.S. nonmilitary aid to Georgia has totaled around $64 million a year on average, in addition to a five-year Millennium Challenge Corporation grant of $140 million to support education. In FY2019, Congress appropriated almost $90 million in nonmilitary aid to Georgia. Since 2010, U.S. military aid to Georgia has been estimated at around $68 million a year on average. In FY2019, Congress appropriated $35 million in Foreign Military Financing and $2 million in International Military Education and Training funds. Defense assistance also includes a three-year, $35 million training initiative, the Georgia Defense Readiness Program.