ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports: Sen. Joe Biden met with Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili Friday in Milwaukee, pledging American support for Georgia and promising not to "let the intentions of the Russian government to bring down the democratically-elected government" of Georgia.
Biden and Saakashvili met privately for about 45 minutes, but, despite an Associated Press report to the contrary, members of Biden’s traveling press pool were in fact permitted in for a five-minute portion beforehand, giving reporters a chance to hear from the two long-time friends.
"We’re old friends, we’ve known each other for some time," said Biden. "Before President Saakashvili was president, we knew one another and we had been in close contact before and during and after Russia tried to topple a democratically-elected government."
In the midst of rampant speculation that he was about to be named as Sen. Barack Obama’s running mate, Biden traveled to the war-torn region in early August.
"When the invasion was taking place, I spoke to the president and asked whether I could come to Tbilisi and I was happy to do that and thought it was important to show American solidarity and support. We will not let, we will not let the intentions of the Russian government to bring down a democratically-elected government."
Biden said that he assured Saakashvili over dinner in the Georgian capital that the United States would "make a considerable commitment in the economic well-being and stability in Georgia."
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee warned that the Russian invasion was also aimed at intimidating other former Soviet bloc countries.
"The intent was to also intimidate the entire former Soviet Union, as the Americans think of it, independent countries all along the border," he said.
A grateful Georgian leader thanked Biden for his trip at such a vital time.
"You flew all the way through a lot more than half of the world to the city that was being bombarded at that moment," said Saakashvili. "It was a very, very, very great decision of yours and in the middle of the whole presidential expectations surrounding you – vice-presidential expectations – and still basically you came straight into the middle of the conflict and did something that was very brave of you. And very few people would have done that. And I certainly will not forget that. And my people are not going to forget it. And we will never forget your solidarity and generosity."
"I think what is important is that you understand so well what is at stake for America, for freedom, for democracy, for your interests as well as for the values that America has and for which America is so respected," continued the Georgian president. "I think we have lots of generosity and solidarity from American people and worldwide, lots of sympathy, but you were the first one to come up with a very concrete program of what should have been done in that very complicated situation."
Biden emphasized that Russia must "pay a price" for their actions.
"What we’ve been talking about and what we’ll continue to talk about is our effort to see to it that they do not succeed," concluded Biden. "It’s important Russians pay a price for what they’ve done."
"I’m really proud to call you my friend and to call you a friend of my people, my region," stated Saakashvili.