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Hagel Says Putin Makes U.S. Determined To Help Georgia Join NATO

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (left) talks to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a NATO-Georgia defense ministers' meeting in Brussels in 2013.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says “Russia’s blatant aggression in Ukraine” has made the United States and Georgia determined to build stronger military ties.

Speaking on September 7 in Tbilisi after talks with Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, Hagel called NATO’s September 4-5 summit in Wales “an important milestone in Georgia’s efforts to join” the alliance.

He said the United States would help Georgia fulfill its goal of joining NATO, stressing that “deepening ties between NATO and Georgia are especially important given the dangerous and irresponsible actions” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said those actions include Putin’s “illegal annexation of Crimea, which the United States does not recognize, and the ongoing military campaign Russia is mounting in eastern Ukraine" -- as well as Russia’s “actions inside Georgia’s internationally recognized borders” in its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Hagel and Alasania also discussed steps toward the sale of Blackhawk helicopters to Tbilisi.

Hagel said the United States and Georgia did not reach a final agreement on the sale of helicopters but are discussing prices and other details.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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