Georgia Boosts Cooperation with NATO
Vyacheslav MIKHAILOV | 11.09.2014 | OPINION

Georgia Boosts Cooperation with NATO

The NATO summit adopted a significant aid package to Georgia to pave the way for full-fledged membership. The country did not receive the MAP (Membership Action Plan). But it goes on to boost the cooperation. For instance, a new NATO military training center is to be built and some exercises of the alliance are to be held on Georgian soil. The NATO liaison office will have more functions to carry out. The NATO summit final declaration says the measures are aimed at enhancing the Georgia’s military capability and interoperability with the alliance. 

The hopes of Tbilisi to receive a MAP were dashed. The Wales Declaration confirmed the principle that the way to membership lies through the fulfillment of MAP. Among «elements» of the 2008 Bucharest decision was that MAP should be the next step for Georgia on its «direct way to membership»; references to the need of going through MAP phase before joining the alliance are also made in NATO’s subsequent decisions in respect to Georgia and the same reference was again made at this recent summit by declaring that NATO reaffirms all elements of the 2008 summit decisions. This time Tbilisi was not added to the list of MAP recipients (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro). Instead Georgia joined the rather amorphous group of countries offered to intensify relationship to the level of «enhanced cooperation» within the framework of Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative along with Georgia, Moldova and…Jordan. As NATO officials say that Georgia’s inclusion into the Capacity Building Initiative facilitates stability in the South Caucasus without NATO’s presence. The alliance also has another program for Eastern Europe – the Readiness Action Plan but there are no changes in the NATO South Caucasus defence posture. 

Georgian troops are to be available for the NATO's rapid-reaction force in 2015. No rotational presence of the alliance is envisaged on the territory of Georgia, though the military activities of alliance are to intensify in the vicinity of Russia’s western borders. 

As it gets closer to the US and NATO, Georgia steps up anti-Russian rhetoric, no matter the Georgian government had declared its intention to improve the relations with Russia only a few hours before the Wales-held event kicked off. On September 3 the Georgian Dream parliamentary coalition came up with a resolution on the situation in Ukraine condemning the «aggression» of Russia. The Mikhail Saakashvili's United National Movement welcomed the provision lashing out over Russia’s Ukraine policy. 

Neither Washington, nor Brussels know how to exert influence over the Caucasus without exposing Georgia to retaliatory steps. Anyway there will be no forward presence on the Georgian soil and no large-scale offensive arms supplies to upgrade the country’s armed forces are planned. The package for Georgia includes defence capacity building, training, exercises, strengthened liaison, and enhanced interoperability opportunities to strengthen Georgia’s defence and interoperability capabilities with the alliance. The US will leave Georgia the equipment to be withdrawn from Afghanistan, like, MRAP and infantry mobility vehicles Cougar and Humvees, something it refused to do in case of Azerbaijan. The US will also provide enhanced personnel training (Train and Equip program). A new facility to bring personnel training to NATO standards is being built in Akhalkali, near the Armenian border. It’s called Basic Combat Training Center which would also provide an enhanced training course. Akhalkali was a homebase to the 62d division of Russian army which left in 2007. It is situated rather far from the main military infrastructure (the 2d infantry brigade in Senaki, 3d infantry brigade in Kutaisi, the 2d artillery brigade in Khoni and Batumi light infantry battalion). 

Besides building the training center Georgia will receive a team of military experts to control the implementation of the aid package. US Marine Commandant James F. Amos visited Georgia on September 4 to be followed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on September 8. In Tbilisi the Secretary made a statement calling on Russia to do nothing less than withdraw the troops from the «Georgian territory». Experts believe that a closer relationship between Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan would advance NATO’s clout in the Caucasus. Actually all Georgia’s plans include cooperation with Ankara and Baku. The three ministers of defense met in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan, in August 2014. They decided to strengthen the cooperation next year by holding joint exercises and launching energy facilities security and joint arms production and procurement programs. The defence chiefs agreed to enhance interoperability and form working groups at the experts’ level. NATO is ready to provide funds, consulting and logistics to support the tripartite cooperation. The strengthening military ties between the three countries are an important element of Georgia’s policy aimed at full-fledged membership in the alliance. 

Tags: NATO  Georgia  US 

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