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U.S. Senators Lobby Anti-Aircraft, Anti-Armor Systems for Georgia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 26 Aug.'08 / 13:20

Georgian military should be given the antiaircraft and anti-armor systems to deter any renewed Russian attack, two influential U.S. senators have said.

Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham said in a joint opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on August 26, that any assistance plan for Georgia after armed conflict with Russia “must also include the rebuilding of Georgia's security forces.”

Senator Lieberman, an independent and close friend of Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Lindsey Graham, a Republican Senator, visited Tbilisi on August 20 and held talks with the country’s leadership.

The two senators wrote in the newspaper article that the United States’ past aid to the Georgian military focused on supporting the light, counterterrorism-oriented forces that facilitated Georgia’s contribution to coalition operations in Iraq.

“We avoided giving the types of security aid that could have been used to blunt Russia's conventional onslaught,” they said. “It is time for that to change.”

“Specifically, the Georgian military should be given the antiaircraft and anti-armor systems necessary to deter any renewed Russian aggression. These defensive capabilities will help to prevent this conflict from erupting again, and make clear we will not allow the Russians to forcibly redraw the boundaries of sovereign nations.”

Although Georgian officials say that the damage inflicted by the Russian attacks on the Georgian military infrastructure is extensive, data on exact scale of damage are not yet available.

Although there are reports in the Russian media about number of Georgian military equipment seized, or destroyed by the Russian troops, it is still impossible to create an exact picture at this stage, as it is not possible to verify these reports.

Based on these separate and scattered reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Georgian service journalist and military expert, Koba Liklikadze, tried to create an overall picture according to which Georgia has lost 65 battle tanks out of total 130-140 it possessed before the conflict. And the Russian news agencies are reporting based on the Russian military that the Russian troops seized five OSA self-propelled anti-aircraft systems; no independent verification is available.

Georgian Deputy Defense Minister, Batu Kutelia, said after Senators Lieberman and Graham visited Tbilisi that anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems were exactly what Georgia needed.

And President Saakashvili said on August 21, that Georgia needed help in “developing our economy, rebuilding infrastructure and strengthening our defense capacity and security structures.”

“You know that a group of [U.S.] senators visited Georgia yesterday. They are ready to allocate great funds for strengthening the defense systems of Georgia. We, together with the U.S. command and NATO, are now working over identifying in which direction this strengthening should take place,” he said.

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