U.S. Ambassador-designate to Georgia, Richard Norland, said during a nomination hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 21, that the U.S. had approved sale of M4 Carbines assault rifles to Georgia.
During the hearing the U.S. Ambassador-designate was asked by Republican Senator John Barrasso about the U.S.-Georgia defense cooperation, specifically mentioning the U.S. defense authorization act, which calls for “normalization” of military cooperation with Georgia.
“I firmly believe that a robust military-to-military relationship needs to be part of the U.S.-Georgia relations,” Norland responded. “Fortunately, during President Saakashvili’s meeting with President Obama on January 30 I think some important… impetus was given to that relationship.”
“We’ve already seen approval of shipment of – or purchase of M4 Carbines by the Georgians,” he said. “There’s going to be, I think, enhanced focus on support for Georgia’s defense reforms, for Georgia’s ability to participate in the ISAF mission and for NATO interoperability in that regard. As we speak the U.S. Marines are wrapping up today [March 21] exercise Agile Spirit with the Georgian military in support of their ISAF presence,” Norland said.
Georgia first purchased M4 Carbines from the U.S. in late 2007, which were publicly unveiled in January, 2008.
During the same nomination hearing, the U.S. Ambassador-designate also said that U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, Celeste Wallander was in Georgia in February and Georgia’s Deputy Defense Minister would be visiting the U.S. next month “to pick up the dialogue following the presidential meeting on this issue.”
“Sustaining robust bilateral security and defense cooperation with Georgia will also remain a high priority if I am confirmed,” he said.
“Our plans for security assistance and military engagement with Georgia are to support Georgia’s defense reforms, to train and equip Georgian troops for participation in the ISAF mission and to advance Georgia’s NATO interoperability.”
He said that during a meeting in Washington in late January, President Obama and President Saakashvili “agreed to enhance these programs, to advance Georgian military modernization reform and self-defense capabilities.”