The United States is stepping up its military aid to Georgia, encouraging Tbilisi to continue on its pro-NATO path. The State Department has approved the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Georgia. The proposed $75 million sale includes 410 Javelin missiles and 72 Javelin command launch units (CLUs), including two Javelin Block 1 CLUs to be used as spares. The proposed sale also includes ten basic skills trainers (BST) and up to 70 simulated rounds.
Tbilisi believes that the approval is a big win. The Javelin has long been at the top of the country’s wish list since 2008 when Georgia attacked South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers, triggering a war with Russia, which it lost. Until the State Department’s approval, the US had been reluctant to encourage Georgian adventurism and escalate tensions with Russia by selling the system. That attitude appears to have changed. The efforts to boost military cooperation with Tbilisi have intensified under the Trump administration. The visit of Vice President Mike Pence in August was seen in Tbilisi as a meaningful gesture toward Georgia.
Starting next spring, around 40-50 US Army officers will begin a three-year program to train Georgian troops. The program is currently scheduled to run for three years and train nine battalions. That will supplement the Georgia Deployment Program, under which about 80 US Marines are based in Georgia to train Georgian troops before they are sent to Afghanistan. The United States holds two large military exercises per year in Georgia, and has begun to replace the Soviet-legacy Kalashnikov automatic rifles with US-made M240.
Despite the ever-receding hopes of joining NATO, Georgia has done everything it could to ingratiate itself with the bloc, including being a significant contributor to US- and NATO-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thirty-two Georgian servicemen have died in Afghanistan. “In this sense, Georgia is an example for all,” said US Defense Secretary James Mattis, meeting his Georgian counterpart Levan Izoria at the Pentagon on November 13.
The Javelin is an easy-to-use shoulder-fired anti-tank, guided munition and surveillance weapon system effective against a wide array of targets such as armored vehicles, bunkers and caves. Being a fire-and-forget weapon, it requires no further input after lunch. The crew is free to duck into cover and concealment, rather than being forced to remain fixed in place guiding the missile towards the target. It can be deployed from multiple platforms such as tripods, trucks, light armored vehicles, and remotely piloted vehicles in all weather, day or night operations. The system’s long-wave infrared seeker enables it to engage in obscurants and reduced visibility and resists or minimizes effects of countermeasures. It has been recently upgraded to increase the effective firing range from 2,500 m to 4,750m.
The US Defense Department’s statement says that “This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Georgia. The Javelin system will provide Georgia with increased capacity to meet its national defense requirements. Georgia will have no difficulty absorbing this system into its armed forces.” The question is how can the proposed sale enhance America’s security, with Georgia located thousands of miles away? How will it strengthen Georgia’s security? Russia will see the deal as a hostile act and take measures.
It should be noted that the Javelin is not the most effective weapon against Russia tanks, which feature several countermeasures. New Relikt and Mechanit explosive reactive armor (ERA) systems feature dual layers of radar-triggered ERA plates designed to defeat tandem charge warheads. The Shtora and the newer Afganit Active Protection Systems can deploy ‘soft kill’ multi-spectral grenades and flares designed to obscure the tank from infrared seekers or divert them to other heat sources. It gives the countries that possess the Javelin no military advantage but the sales of such systems is a provocative step to damage the already spoiled Russia-US relations.
The US National Security Council has approved a $47 million grant package that would send Javelin anti-tank systems, counter-battery radar, and counter-mortar weapons to Ukraine and forwarded its opinion to President Donald Trump for consideration. The decision is taken despite notorious corruption in Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and the fact that Russia would have to respond. Congress has already authorized him to transfer these designated defensive weapons to Ukraine if he so chooses. This comes in sharp contrast to the previous White House administration, which feared that supplying weapons could escalate the situation and tensions with Russia.
The arms transfers to Georgia and Ukraine will come amid ongoing rearmament and forward deployments in East Europe, the Baltic and Black Sea areas. The Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – and Poland have been fortified with multinational battlegroups provided by NATO states. The US State Department has okayed a $10.5 billion sale to Poland. The sale includes four radar sets, four engagement control stations, 16 launching stations and 208 missiles. This year, the US sent 1,000 troops to Poland to lead the multinational battle group there as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, A rotational group of 300 US Marines also arrived in Norway at the start of the year.
US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has called for more America troops in Europe in coming years. According to Jim Stavridis, a former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, “We need a balanced mix of all military capabilities including increased Army heavy units, increased maritime deployments to the Baltic and Black Seas, joint NATO air patrols over NATO borders, and more attention to the Arctic.”
Intelligence capabilities are to be enhanced greatly. Denmark has announced plans to build a large spy station – a nearly 280-foot-tall listening tower near Ostermarie, on the Danish island of Bornholm – intended to capture Russian communications. Bornholm was liberated from the Nazis by Soviet troops in May 1945. The Soviet Union handed over control of the island to Denmark the following year, but stipulated that other Western forces should never be stationed there. It’s unrealistic to expect that the NATO listening facility will be manned by Danes only.
Everywhere one looks, there are signs of US-led NATO war preparations that Russia watches closely. Not all of the abovementioned facts hit media headlines, but summed together they indicate that the bloc is implementing the plans to encircle Russia and implement its biggest buildup since the cold War. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg assures that the alliance doesn't want a "new Cold War" with Russia. “…having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset to the world, and an asset to our country, not a liability,” said US President Trump after meeting Russian President Putin at the recent APEC summit. These are nice words but the facts tell otherwise. The sales of Javelin systems are an element of the policy that sees Russia as an enemy and a target.