POLITICS

Obama gaffe: Refers to Georgia as 'Russia'

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

President Obama mistakenly referred to the nation of Georgia as "Russia" after a bilateral meeting with the Georgian president -- an unfortunate slip-up, given that the president was celebrating 20 years of Georgian independence from Soviet rule.

"[O]ne of the first things that I did was express my appreciation for the institution-building that’s been taking place in Russia -- in Georgia," Obama told reporters following a meeting with Georgia's President Saakashvili. Moments earlier, Obama had noted that it was "a wonderful occasion to have him here as we’ll be celebrating this year 20 years of independence for Georgia and the eighth anniversary of the Rose Revolution."

Georgia was conquered in 1921 when the Soviet Red Army invaded the country. Three years ago, Russia invaded Georgia as part of a territorial dispute that has simmered since Georgia regained independence after the Communist empire collapsed in 1991.

The two leaders are beginning "a high-level dialogue between our two countries about how we can continue to strengthen trade relations between our two countries, including the possibility of a free trade agreement," Obama said. "And I reaffirmed to the President and assured him that the United States will continue to support Georgia’s aspirations to ultimately become a member of NATO."

President Saakashvili was very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. "I’ll be leaving this office very happy because we basically got what we wanted to get," he said.

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