“A farewell to arms and a salute to new arms,” President-elect Mikheil Saakashvili said, referring to the process of replacement of Kalashnikovs with U.S.-made M4 Carbine assault rifles by the Georgian army.
“Today is a historical day for the Georgian armed forces. We have started to switch to western weapons. Starting from today, we will use the best weapon in the world – the M4 assault rifle,” Saakashvili said.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony of a newly built military base in Gori on January 18. Saakashvili said he had delayed the official opening, even though the base has been in operation since before the election, because he wanted to avoid connecting the base with political processes.
“Our armed forces have received new armored vehicles which meet NATO standards, new artillery, which also meets NATO and western standards. We will also gradually change our air force equipment and move to western standards. We are the first armed forces in the post-Soviet space to acquire western weapons and adopt western standards at such a pace… I could not even imagine that we would be able to do it. But we did it and we will do much more. We will astonish even the most skeptical people.”
“The difference between the old and new weapons is that western weapons are used and western standards adhered to by soldiers and officers of a democratic country. A democratic country needs a well-trained and well-equipped small army to defend democracy and freedom,” Saakashvili told soldiers at the Gori military base. “Yesterday I received the newspaper of the U.S. Congress. And on its front page there is a headline, “Georgia Offers Lessons with its Elections.” I am proud of that. I am proud that we will amaze the entire democratic world with many other things as well. You are soldiers of a democratic country. You are defending democracy and freedom. You are defending our dignity and Georgia’s fate depends on your actions, your bravery and your success.”