Alexander Vershbow, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, has denied Russia’s claims that U.S. was rearming Georgia and said “there has been no lethal military assistance to Georgia” since the August war.
Speaking at hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations’ subcommittee for Europe – One Year After the August War, Vershbow said “no part of the USD 1 billion U.S. assistance package went to the Ministry of Defense.”
He, however, also said that although the U.S.-Georgia military cooperation’s priority “in a short term” was focused on “fundamental intellectual issues” including training, doctrine and personnel management, as Georgian military’s “capacities to absorb equipment improve, based on this preparation, other forms of assistance can take place.”
“Nothing is off the table,” he said and added that this “phased approach” was a way ahead and there was “a general understanding” on the part of the Georgian government in this regard.
“We are taking a phased approach to our military assistance and carefully examining each step to ensure that it would not be counterproductive to our goals of promoting peace and stability in the region,” Vershbow said.
He said the U.S. stressed to the Georgian government that “any strategy to take on Russia is counterproductive and is doomed to failure.”
“This will require a long-term approach and strategic restraint on Georgia’s part,” he said. “We have stressed clearly and unequivocally that there are no military solutions to the challenge of the separatist regions. Georgia needs to pursue a careful and rational defense modernization plan.”
He described the U.S. military cooperation with Georgia as “methodical, yet patient,” which, he said, was elaborated based on U.S. European Command’s multi-month assessment of Georgia’s armed forces.
Vershbow said that the August war revealed “many previously unrecognized or neglected deficiencies” in the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF) and Ministry of Defense.
“In practically all areas, GAF defense institutions, strategies, doctrine, and professional military education were found to be seriously lacking,” he said.
According to Vershbow the U.S. military assistance to Georgia for fiscal year 2009 was projected to be USD 11 million with focus on assistance on a simulations center, training and education, training center modernization and defense advisors.
“We hope to focus additional FY-10 resources on defense advisors, support to professional military education, communications, training and education, tactical vehicle (HMMWV) maintenance and training center modernization,” he said.
Vershbow also said that Georgia had accomplished much in the last few years, “showing a record of impressive reforms unparalleled in the region.”
“Since the conflict, Georgia has taken on board U.S. advice from the EUCOM Armed Forces Assessment and is working to institutionalize reforms along Euro-Atlantic lines,” he added.
At the same hearings, Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said that the U.S. military assistance also involved preparing and equipping Georgian forces for deployment in Afghanistan.
Georgia plans to deploy an infantry company with French forces in Afghanistan later this year, and has pledged to deploy a battalion under the U.S. command in Afghanistan in 2010. Georgia said it would participate in the NATO-led operations in Afghanistan “without national caveats attached.”