The United States is closely monitoring democratic progress in Georgia and plans to promote its bid for NATO membership at the next alliance summit, the diplomat picked to serve as ambassador to the former Soviet republic told the Senate this week.
Richard Norland, a career diplomat, also reiterated U.S. support for Georgia’s boundaries and criticized Russia for aiding separatist movements.
Georgia and Russia fought a brief conflict in 2008 over Moscow’s support for the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Mr. Norland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that Georgia has a chance to prove its commitment to democracy in parliamentary elections in October and in a presidential election next year.
He agreed with Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, who noted that the political opposition complains that the government throws up electoral hurdles to ensure its power.
“Georgia has made progress toward becoming a full democratic state,” Mr. Norland said. “But as you indicated, there are very real concerns about . . . the level playing field.”
He added that the Obama administration supports Georgia’s desire to join NATO and will discuss the issue at the May 20-21 alliance summit in Chicago.
Mr. Norland served most recently as ambassador to Uzbekistan and spent two years as deputy chief of mission in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007.