Through the diplomats' eyes: Ian Kelly, next US Ambassador to Georgia
10 September, 2015
Through the diplomats' eyes: Ian Kelly, next US Ambassador to Georgia
Washington is sending a new chair of its diplomatic mission to Tbilisi. Ambassador Ian Kelly will be sworn in at the U.S. State Department ceremony on September 11, 2015. Voice of America’s Georgian service asked several U.S. diplomats and former Ambassadors to Georgia to talk about Kelly’s experience and his mission. Most of all, we were interested in finding out in what ways would Ian Kelly be able to meet his challenges and use his opportunities, as well as what
role Tbilisi was destined to play in Washington’s foreign policy agenda.

Read the Georgian version of the article on Voice of America website.

Richard Norland, latest U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, says the new Ambassador is very competent in what his duties as a Chief of U.S. mission are expected to be:

“We are excited about Ian and Francesca going to Georgia. Mary and I miss Georgia quite a bit, although it is good to know that our successor is a very capable and competent diplomat; Ian is one of our best. I can tell you, being back in Washington, that Georgia is a very important country for us, which is why we send our best to represent us in Tbilisi. Ian has a considerable experience in the region; he served in Moscow and in OSCE, so he is very familiar with regional problems. I have had a chance to see him at Ambassador Gegeshidze’s residence several weeks ago and I can tell you they are looking forward to arriving in Tbilisi. I would advise that they meet people in Georgia and see the country in all of its different dimensions; Francesca is interested in opera and as a family, they are looking forward to a very rich and meaningful experience. I think that relations between the U.S. and Georgia will grow even stronger in Ian Kelly’s stewardship, and I know he can’t wait to get there.”

Kenneth Yalowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, says that supporting Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration will be one of the main goals for Ambassador Kelly. At the same time, he admits that achiving the final result will not be easy or fast.

“Ian Kelly is a great diplomat and person, so I think he was a great choice as a next U.S. Ambassador to Georgia. He has considerable experience in the region. One of his main functions will be supporting Georgia on the way it now pursues – the Euro-Atlantic path, that is. Relations with NATO and the EU are very important. Strengthening of the joint NATO-Georgia training center will be his major priority. There is a big need for a MAP in Georgia, although I do not think it is a feasible step in the foreseeable future. The main thing is that Georgia continues to make progress in its relations with NATO and remain committed to get a membership. That is why fully activating a joint NATO training center will be one of the main goals for the next U.S. Ambassador.

At the same time he will try to strengthen Georgia-EU agreements, including the Association Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement; this will be very difficult, especially in the beginning, to implement. He will also pay attention to strengthening domestic institutions and supporting the Georgian democratic development. Georgia will have parliamentary elections in a year and these will have to be conducted in a fair, free and transparent manner, like several previous elections. In the end, his most important task will be to represent the U.S. and carry out America’s policy, which in turn will serve towards development of Georgia’s economic prosperity, security and democracy.

I remember the time when I was an Ambassador to Georgia myself; it was a time when there was a will to implement reforms and a shared understanding. Of course I do not mean that it is easy to be a U.S. Ambassador - on the contrary, it is a very demanding and responsible job, given all the challenges Georgia faces. Once again, Ian Kelly was a wonderful choice for it.”

Richard Hoagland has been Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. He has traveled a lot and understands the problems facing the region. Ambassador Hoagland advises Ambassador Kelly, as a fellow diplomat, to be patient and a bit humble:

“If he was to ask for my advice, I would tell him to be patient, avoid jumping to conclusions, get to know the country, refuse to stay inside a bubble or a golden cage, meet people and be a little bit humble. We’re not always right, but we want to understand things properly.”

Based on Georgia’s strategic geopolitical location and strong ties with the U.S., in their conversations with Voice of America’s Georgian Service, American diplomats were certain that the bilateral ties between these two nations would become even stronger.

Read the Georgian version of the article on Voice of America website.

By Anna Kalandadze, VOA Georgian Service
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