Tina S. Kaidanow, a career diplomat who was the U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, will become Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to oversee relations with countries in the Caucasus and Southern Europe, replacing Mathew Bryza, the latter said.
In a capacity of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bryza paid his last visit to Georgia on August 10 as part of his trip to South Caucasus states – the region for which he has been the Department of State’s point man for last four years.
Bryza, who, as he himself put it, was a more frequent guest to Georgia than any other U.S. official, was a regular target of criticism of the Georgian opposition politicians for his perceived support personally to President Saakashvili, which the opponents claimed, was resulting into turning a blind eye on the Georgian authorities’ failures to deliver with democratic reforms.
“I found it simply ridiculous to read, to hear some of the things some of my colleagues in more radical side of Georgia’s opposition were saying about me supposedly supporting only one person in this country,” Bryza said in his opening remarks at a news conference in Tbilisi on August 10 – the issue which he had to publicly address at least once in the past.
And when asked about the criticism to the Bush administration for supposedly having personalized nature of relations with the Georgian leadership, Bryza responded: “With all due respect to those experts who pose that question they simply are completely unaware of how the U.S. policy has been formed for these last many years.”
“What has been consistent, meaning what will not change from one [U.S.] administration to another is that the personalization of the U.S. policy towards Georgia is that we persons [in the U.S.] feel very close to all of you persons [in Georgia],” Bryza said.
In a joint opinion piece published in The New York Times on August 5 Mark Lenzi, a former country director for the International Republican Institute in Georgia and Lincoln Mitchell, a former country director for the National Democratic Institute in Georgia, wrote that they knew from firsthand about “how the highly personalized nature of relations between the U.S. and Georgian leadership has contributed to bipartisan American reluctance to criticize the steps Georgia has made away from democracy in recent years.”
Before leaving Georgia for Baku, Bryza met with President Saakashvili who awarded the U.S. diplomat with medal of Golden Fleece– an award presented to foreign citizens for their contribution to “building the Georgian statehood” and developing bilateral ties with foreing countries.
“Matt [referring to Bryza] has contributed largely to strengthen of our bilateral relations [with the United States]. He stood by Georgia in the most difficult times,” Saakashvili said.
Bryza said on August 10, referring to the August war, that last year “those people, who may have had dark goals to undermine Georgia, failed” and now the best way for Georgia was to go ahead with its economic and democratic reforms.
Echoing U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks in Tbilisi last month, Bryza said that “life will be normal and fully healthy here once institutions, like Parliament, play a stronger role; once judicial reform has advanced; once electoral reforms are in place and once we see stronger and more independent media.”
He reiterated that the U.S. would stand beside Georgia and partnership would further deepen “as Georgia is on this path of expanding political and economic freedom through serious reforms.”
“It needs to be worked on now to rejuvenate these reforms,” he added.
Tina S. Kaidanow, who will replace Bryza, served in the U.S. mission in Kosovo for two years before becoming ambassador there in 2008. Before that she served as deputy chief of U.S. mission in Sarajevo for three years.