WASHINGTON – The Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), praised today the announcement by Russia and the Republic of Georgia of a deal to complete the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Georgia by 2008.
“A free and sovereign Georgia is good news and an important step,” said Brownback, “I commend the Russian and the Georgians for working toward this agreement. Implementation will be critical in overcoming this aspect of the Soviet legacy and moving toward establishment of full sovereignty and territorial integrity for Georgia. The process of withdrawing Russian forces from Georgia as well as the Republic of Moldova have been delayed before, I urge the Russian Federation to keep its promises. Russia should also stop supporting separatist regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
Under the terms of the deal announced by the Russian and Georgian governments, the two remaining Soviet-era military bases with about 3,000 Russian troops will be gradually closed down, with the last troops departing in 2008. In March of this year, the Georgian parliament voted unanimously to outlaw Russia’s military presence in Georgia unless Moscow withdrew all of its troops. Russia had said that it needed four years to complete any pull-out. In November 1999 Russia agreed at the Istanbul OSCE Summit to remove two of its four bases in Georgia and complete negotiations during the year 2000 on the remaining bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki. Similarly, Russia committed in Istanbul to completely withdraw its forces from the territory of Moldova by the end of 2002. An estimated 1,300 Russian troops remain in Moldova today.
“Nothing is a done deal till the Russian troops are actually gone,” added Brownback, “Still, the signs are good and I think its possible now to see the relationship between Russia and Georgia becoming more positive.”
Russia and Georgia are both participating States in the Helsinki Process, which the U.S. Helsinki Commission is charged by Congress with monitoring. Although the deal between Russia and Georgia was negotiated bilaterally, both states are obligated under the Helsinki Final Act to respect a series of principles, including sovereign equality and territorial integrity.
“This base deal demonstrates that the Helsinki Process is a crucial part of security in Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union,” noted Brownback. “Clearly there would have been no basis for negotiation without the precedent and actual obligations coming out of the Helsinki Final Act.”