Two years after the August war rebuilding Georgia’s defense, including through possible supply of anti-tank, air defense and early-warning radar systems, is one of the areas in which Tbilisi needs U.S. long-term support, U.S. Republican senator, John McCain wrote in his opinion piece published in the Washington Post on August 8.
Senator McCain said that despite Georgia’s significant contribution to the Afghan operation, “yet it has been a struggle to get the [U.S.] administration to provide Georgian troops heading into combat even basic equipment, armored vehicles and replacement parts.”
“Beyond this short-term assistance, Georgia needs long-term support to provide for its own defense. This is likely to entail antitank capabilities, air defenses, early-warning radar and other defensive systems that should not be misconstrued as U.S. endorsement for any Georgian use of force against its separatist regions. Georgia will always be less powerful than Russia, but that is no reason to leave it vulnerable two years after a Russian invasion,” McCain wrote.
When asked in June why the U.S. had not fulfilled any of Georgia’s request for arms in last couple of years, Philip Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, responded, that after the August war Washington was focused on “reducing tensions” and trying to get Russian to follow its commitments under the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement and to respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“We don’t think that arms sales and military equipment is the path to the situation in Georgia that we’re trying to get to,” Gordon said. He also said that the U.S. had no arms embargo on Georgia.
When asked at a joint news conference with visiting U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in Tbilisi on July 5 about “de facto restrictions” on sale of U.S. arms to Georgia, President Saakashvili responded that Georgia had “very good security cooperation” with the United States and brought an example of Georgia’s contribution to the Afghan operation.
Saakashvili said that this security cooperation “is a process, a step-by-step approach” and “there is nothing to complain about” the U.S. policy on this issue.
In an interview with Itar-Tass news agency last week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said, that Moscow was insisting on imposing “broad international embargo” on supply of arms to Georgia.
“It can be said today, that many of those, who were active supplies of arms to Georgia in the past, have analyzed policy of the current leadership in Tbilisi and reconsidered their approach,” Karasin said. “But the problem is still too far from being resolved.”