U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney urged the "free world" on Thursday to rally with Georgia against what he called Russia''s invasion, and pledged to bring Georgia into NATO.

The hawkish vice president''s arrival in Georgia came a day after Washington pledged $1 billion in reconstruction aid for the South Caucasus country, following last month''s conflict with Russia.

Standing alongside President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi, Cheney said: "After your nation won its freedom in the Rose Revolution, America came to the aid of this courageous young democracy."

Cheney''s comments are likely to further strain tensions with Russia, which has strongly criticized the military and political backing given by the U.S. to Georgia since Saakashvili came to power in the 2003 ''revolution'', and Washington''s failure to prevent Tbilisi from attacking breakaway South Ossetia.

Cheney said the U.S. supports Georgia "as you work to overcome an invasion of your sovereign territory and an illegitimate, unilateral attempt to change your country''s borders by force that has been universally condemned by the free world."

"Now it is the responsibility of the free world to rally to the side of Georgia."