For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 25, 2004
Remarks by the President and Georgian President Saakashvili in Photo Opportunity 11 26 A.M. EST President Bush
The Oval Office
Here's What We're Going to Do. I Will Make A
Statement. the President Will Make a Statement. I Will Then Call Upon
An American Correspondent to Ask a Question. the President Will Call
Upon a Georgian Correspondent. We'll Have Two Questions Per Side.
Mr. President, welcome. We followed the revolution that took place
in your country very closely. We appreciate your firm commitment to
democracy and freedom. We've had a very interesting discussion. I know
firsthand that the President will do everything he can to earn the
confidence of the people of Georgia by representing their will, by
fighting corruption, by working for a system based upon integrity and
decency and human rights.
I'm impressed by this leader. I'm impressed by his vision, I'm
impressed by his courage. I am heartened by the fact that we have such
a strong friend, a friend with whom we share values.
So Mr. President, welcome to the Oval Office. I appreciate the
candid discussion we've had. And I'm proud to call you friend.
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: It's a great honor for me and for the people
of Georgia to be here in this Oval Office. It's not -- our cooperation
is very deep. We consider ourselves as very close ally and friend of
the United States. We are proud to be friend of the United States. I
am speaking on behalf of every Georgian.
I have to say that this cooperation and friendship -- the U.S. helped
us when we needed it most, and would like peoples -- other peoples in
Europe will never forget that. But our cooperation is -- that held
friendship is not only about security, it's not only about economy,
primarily it's about our shared values. And we are part of -- proud
part of anti-terrorist coalition. We have forces in Iraq. We are
cooperating on other issues.
We are also working very hard on our improved relations with Russia.
I had a very interesting conversation with President Putin in Moscow,
and I believe Russia should become our reliable partner and we should
improve our relations. But at the same time, we believe that America's
help is absolutely essential. And we are grateful, we will stay
grateful, and we want to be not only close ally, but we want to be
strong ally. Georgia will become stronger, Georgia will become more
democratic. Democracy is top priority. Freedom of speech is top
priority. Free enterprise, free market is top priority. And I think
Georgia can become a role model for the whole region. And this is very
important. We need U.S. help in that.
Regarding our revolution, it was the proudest moment of my own life
and of life of the whole generation. And we are so proud that we were
supported in our fight for democracy and for people's right to choose by
the United States, and Washington was the first to come and help us.
And I'm sure we'll never forget that.
Mr. President, I really enjoy being here at the White House. Thank
you very much.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. Hold on for a second. Deb, we're going
Q What do you think about --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on. Will somebody translate --
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: It's in English.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I understand. I understand. Hold on for a second.
The way this is going to work is this.
Q I'm from Georgia.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I know you are, excuse me. We're going to start
with the American press, and then there will be a Georgian press, and
then there will be an American press, and then there will be a Georgian
press. That's the best way to maintain order, so we don't have
everybody yelling at the same time.
Q Mr. President, Chairman Greenspan today suggested trimming
Social Security benefits for baby boomers to deal with the rising budget
deficit. Do you think this is a good idea, a good way to ease the
deficit, which is expected to top over $520 billion this year?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, let me talk about the short-term
deficit. The best way to trim the deficit is to follow the budgetary
plan I submitted to the United States Congress. We presented a plan
that will cut the deficit in half over the next five years. I haven't
talked to the Chairman or read his comments. I need to see exactly what
he said. My position on Social Security benefits is this: those
benefits should not be changed for people at or near retirement.
As you know, in the 2000 campaign, I articulated a point of view that
we ought to have personal savings accounts for younger workers that
would make sure those younger workers receive benefits equal to or
greater than that which is expected. I still maintain the same
position, but I haven't seen his comments completely.
Q What do you think about Rose revolution in Georgia?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The Rose revolution? It was an historic moment. It
was a moment where the people spoke. It was a moment where a government
changed because the people peacefully exercised their voice and raised
their voice. And Georgia transitioned to a new government in an
The President and I discussed the ramifications of the Rose
revolution around other parts of the world. The possibility of people
taking charge of their own lives and transforming society in a peaceful
way is a powerful example to people around the world who long for
freedom and long for honest government.
And so the Rose revolution is an inspiring moment of history. And,
again, I want to congratulate the President and his team for insisting
that democracy prevail through peaceful means.
Q Mr. President, in Haiti, the rebels are advancing and a
power-sharing deal has collapsed. Are you prepared to let President
Aristide be overthrown?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Secretary Powell and I have been in close
consultations on this subject. We still hope to be able to achieve a
political settlement between the current government and the rebels. We
are watching the situation very carefully. The Secretary of State has
been in touch with Canadian officials and French officials and Caribbean
officials, all aimed to convince the parties to come to the table and
effect a peaceful solution.
In terms of our own planning here, I have made it abundantly clear to
the Coast Guard that we will turn back any refugee that attempts to
reach our shore. And that message needs to be very clear, as well, to
the Haitian people. We will have a robust presence with an effective
strategy. And so we encourage, strongly encourage the Haitian people to
stay home as we work to reach a peaceful solution to this problem.
Q Do you think it's possible you'll have to send troops there?
PRESIDENT BUSH: What we are -- incident to a political settlement,
we will encourage the international community to provide a security
presence. And that is also being discussed right now. But first
things, first, Steve, is to work on a -- is to work on a political
Q Very complicated problems, with Russian bases problems --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I appreciate you bringing up the Russian bases
problem. We expect the Russian government to honor the Istanbul
commitment. The Istanbul commitment made it very clear that Russia
would leave those places. We will continue to work with the President
and President Putin on that commitment.
I also appreciate very much the President's work with the Russians.
It's important that relations between Georgia and Russia be positive. I
found it a very positive move and a very sophisticated move by the
President that his first trip was to Russia, and I encouraged that, I
thought it was a smart thing to do.
And we will work with Vladimir Putin, with whom I've got a good
relationship, to make sure relations are good with Georgia. It's
important for the Georgian people to have good and strong and peaceful
relations with Russia. There's a lot we can work on. We can work
together to fight terror. Hopefully, as the Georgia economy approves --
improves -- and I'm confident it will -- there will be opportunities for
So the President has got a good vision and this has been a good trip.
I believe in his abilities and I appreciate his vision. And the people
of Georgia will be well-served by his leadership.
Thank you all.
END 11:37 A.M. EST