• U.S. long-term committment to Georgia’s defense reforms;
• In short-term focus made on training, education, doctrine;
• ’Concerns over Russia’s lack of compliance with ceasefire terms’
• No consultations on BMD with non-NATO members;
The U.S. assistance to Georgia’s defense reforms is “a long-term commitment” with current focus on training, education and doctrine, Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said in Tbilisi on October 20.
Vershbow led an interagency U.S. government team, which visited Georgia on October 19-20, to launch the first round of meetings of working group on security issues in frames of the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership.
The working group is one of those four bilateral groups, which will address priority areas identified by the Charter. Democracy, economic development and people-to-people relations are three other areas.
“For obvious reasons this working group [on security issues] is of special importance for us,” Giga Bokeria, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, said at a joint news conference with Vershbow after the meeting of the group.
Vershbow said at the same news conference that Georgia’s progress in defense reforms, including in frames of NATO’s Annual National Program, as well as Georgia’s planned contributions to NATO operations in Afghanistan were discussed at the meeting.
“Security cooperation is one way that we can support Georgia’s sovereignty and independence and its Euro-Atlantic aspirations and to promote stability in the region,” Vershbow said.
“Current focus is on doctrine, education and training and preparation for Georgia’s Afghan deployment,” he said. Military instructors from U.S. Marine Corps are now training a Georgian battalion ahead of its deployment in Afghanistan.
He said that this approach of making focus on increase of professionalism of the Georgian army would “lay the basis for modernization of Georgia’s defense capabilities.”
“At the same time we are not taking any steps that will be counter-productive to our mutual goals of promoting peace and stability in the region, he added.
He also said that Georgia’s security was a broader issue, “which is also a function of continued progress of political reform, development of a robust market economy and we intend to support Georgia in this way as well.”
Asked about Russia’s calls for arms embargo on Georgia, Vershbow responded by echoing remarks of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made in Moscow on October 14, that “Georgia has the right to feel secure and as a sovereign nation Georgia has the right to defend itself.”
“At the same time Georgia has the responsibility… to contribute stability in the region,” he said and added that Georgia “fully accepts its responsibility.”
“We are committed to a long-term process to help Georgia with its defense reforms and its defense modernization. But it will focus - in a short-term – on doctrine, education and training so that one can see improvement of professional standards of the Georgian armed forces,” Vershbow added.
Giga Bokeria said that Georgia “clearly understand that responsibility.”
“We are firm in our commitment to follow [August 12, 2008] ceasefire agreement... and we have already taken steps to make the situation transparent in this regard,” the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister said. “But at the same time, as it was noted here, Georgia has the legitimate right to have efficient defense capabilities.”
“Training, education, doctrine are those directions, which are fundament for establishment of Georgia’s long-term efficient defense capabilities,” he added.
Asked about compliance with the August 12 ceasefire agreement by Russia, Vershbow responded: “We do have concerns about lack of full compliance on the part of Russia with some elements of the August , 2008 ceasefire agreement.”
“We discussed these issues with Russia; we’re also trying to find the way to put international presence back into the occupied territories in order to contribute to de-escalation of tensions, similar to the way the EU monitors are contributing to transparency and confidence-building here on the territory controlled by the Georgian government,” he said.
At the news conference, Vershbow also said that the U.S. was not considering deployment of any elements of ballistic missile defense (BMD) system on non-NATO member states.
“We are not consulting with any non-NATO countries and we do not envisage the emplacement of elements of our new architecture on the territory of non-member states,” Vershbow said.