Saakashvili-Bush Summit Faces Serious Obstacles

Saakashvili-Bush Summit Faces Serious Obstacles

Today (March 19), Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili will meet with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House. The two heads of state will make an appropriately supportive mutual statement, particularly since the visit will mark Saakashvili's first visit to the United States since his reelection in January. Nevertheless, the display of close presidential ties may not prove sufficient to restore Saakashvili's luster as the leading democrat in the Caucasus, ensure Georgia's territorial integrity, or enable Georgia to enter NATO -- the most immediate mutual foreign policy objective of the two governments.

In early January 2008, Mikhail Saakashvili won a definitive, if disputed, first-round victory in Georgia's presidential elections. The Central Election Commission concluded the former president garnered 53 percent of the vote, while the closest runner-up received 27 percent.

During congressional testimony in early February, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza linked Georgia's prospects for joining NATO to improvements in the country's election procedures. Although the U.S. government recognized the legitimacy of the results in the January presidential poll, Bryza said that the international community would expect to see many of the problems with that ballot rectified during the upcoming Georgian parliamentary elections.

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