For the second time in its history the Defense Ministry of Georgia issued a White Paper, stating the main principles and direction of the military reform. The basic aim of the White Paper is to make the Ministry's activities and its structure transparent and open to the public.
"The White Paper is the first evidence of change. Four or five years ago the information written here would have been classified and now it's open to the public for discussion. It shows that one of the main principles of the Defense Ministry is to become compatible with those of Euro-Atlantic nations", Harry Johnson, Chair of the International Board of Advisors of Georgia for Security Issues, stated at the White Paper presentation ceremony.
The White Paper covers all details of Georgia's defense system - the Ministry's structure, its resources, number of the Armed Forces' servicemen, its dislocation areas, armament etc. This information is open for the public and mass media to look at it, discuss it and maybe even suggest its ideas to the governmental structure.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union the newly independent states faced the necessity of reforms in security institutions as well as in the armed forces. This has been a difficult task particularly for Georgia, where internal strife delayed the start of the process in the defence field. Even though there was no practical knowledge of how to develop and modernize a national force the Ministry of Defense chose reforms rather than making no effort and remaining on the old Soviet time structure.
"Georgia stands on an irreversible path of democratic development. The transition process of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces from old soviet model to the modern forces, applicable to the international standards is progressing and that takes a major effort", Lieutenant-General Davit Tevzadze, Minister of Defence, says in the foreword of the White Paper.
The main obstacle of the reforms and development of the Georgian Armed Forces is the lack of funding. Georgia has the lowest defence budget among former soviet republics both in absolute terms and as the share of GDP. 38.5 million Lari (app. 19 million USD) is supposed to be provided for the Defence Ministry in 2002, while Davit Tevzadze, Defense Minister stated defence system needs at least 71 million Lari to satisfy its basic needs.
Irakli Batiashvili, newly appointed head of the Defence and Security Parliamentary Committee, told the Civil Georgia that he would request the Parliament to increase the Defence spending in the 2003 budget.
In spite of the present difficulties, the MoD shows its intention to follow up with the reforms. The Parliament recently adopted the draft elaborated by MoD, which modifies the system of recruitment to the army and even foresees bailing out from the military service. The Georgian Defence Minister believes that the law should become the basis for establishing professional Armed Forces.
"One of the main principles the Ministry of Defence derived is that the armed forces need to be smaller, mobile, flexible, well equipped and well trained", Harry Johnson states.
In the conditions of the financial problems the foreign assistance remains vital for the Georgian Armed Forces. Since 1992, the Defence Ministry of Georgia has established military cooperation with relevant Ministries of 17 countries. The relationship with them is not just formal. Georgian armed forces have received significant assistance from those states, especially from Turkey and the United States.
By Salome Jashi, Civil Georgia