The United States will begin immediately to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia, the last of the 12 former Soviet republics to be so designated, the White House announced Tuesday.
The Bush administration recognized Georgia as an independent state last year but had withheld diplomatic relations because of ongoing violence there."In recent weeks, the Georgia government has taken steps to restore civilian rule, begun a dialogue on national reconciliation and committed itself to holding parliamentary elections this year," said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.
He said a U.S. embassy will be opened in Tiblisi as soon as possible and Washington will back Georgian membership in international financial institutions.
The announcement came a day after President Bush offered assurances of support to Russian President Boris Yeltsin as senators in both parties agreed that the United States should do more to help the former Soviet republics.
Bush and his foreign policy advisers held a lengthy meeting Monday with senators who visited Moscow and Kiev two weeks ago.
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., said it was crucial for the United States and its allies to come through with more assistance, including a ruble stabilization fund from the International Monetary Fund.
Secretary of State James Baker told the lawmakers the administration is examining new aid legislation, but he gave no specifics, said Sen. John Warner, R-Va.
In a telephone call Monday, Bush assured Yeltsin that the United States and Germany will urge the world's industrial powers to "support Russia's courageous economic reforms," Fitzwater said.
It has been estimated that the IMF might have to provide loans of $5 billion to $8 billion to stabilize the ruble and allow it to be readily exchanged on international markets. The United States might be asked to back one-quarter of that amount.
Nunn said Japan and other allies must pitch in. The Russians and others "have been biting the bullet," he told reporters. "I do not think they can continue these hard steps unless they have some economic and psychological boost from the West."
Two weeks ago, former President Richard Nixon criticized the "pathetically inadequate" U.S. response to the demise of communism and the shift toward free-market democracy in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
The senators and Bush agreed that a new aid package will be a hard sell in Congress, particularly in the House, where even traditional foreign aid may be in jeopardy in this year.