Moscow said on Monday that the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s statement expressing “grave concern” over Russia’s snap military exercises in the Black Sea was a publicity stunt, which “fits badly” with Georgian government’s declarations about wanting to normalize ties with Russia.
“Georgian side’s ‘grave concern’ about the exercises has a far-fetched nature. It is especially obvious against the background of a quite adequate reaction from rest of the international community,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in comments posted on the ministry’s website on April 1.
“I think it is yet another unconvincing attempt to conceal actual state of affairs – Georgia, which launched military conflict in the Caucasus in 2008, continues evading entering into a binding agreement on security guarantees with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which have been targets of Tbilisi’s threats and aggressive actions for many years,” Lukashevich said, adding that this line of Tbilisi’s position continued during the recent round of Geneva talks.
“Inflating publicly Russian threat for the purpose of covering up its own confrontational policies is not a new trick employed by the Georgian side. It is quite enough to recall a months-long hype about last year’s scheduled Russian exercises [Kavkaz-2012], which as if were posing ‘a deadly threat to Georgia’. The fact that Tbilisi continues applying such formulaic propaganda stunts, to say it directly, fits badly with the statements about having an aspiration to normalize ties with Russia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in the statement on March 29 that it was “alarmed by the unexpected, provocative activity of the Russian troops”, involving snap military drills in the Black Sea, and said that this action “runs contrary to the interests of stability and predictability in the European neighborhood.”
Georgian Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said on the same day that Russia’s military exercises in the Black Sea were causing Georgia to intensify its vigilance. He, however, also added: “We do not feel a direct threat from these exercises.”
Deputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on March 29, that Russia’s Black Sea drills were not a source of alarm for the NATO; he, however, also indicated that it would have been better if Moscow had informed NATO in advance.
“Exercises are normal business for militaries. NATO does regular program of exercises every year. But I think that it’s always good to have lot of transparency about exercises, the size, the scope, what’s the goal,” Vershbow said and added that he was told by the Russian officials that even the troops were supposed to be surprised by these exercises to test reaction speed.
“But I told my [Russian] colleagues: ‘you still could have told the NATO, we can keep the secret’,” Vershbow said.
On March 22 the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized joint U.S.-Georgian military exercises, Agile Spirit-2013, ongoing at the Vaziani training area outside Tbilisi and said that “any foreign military assistance to Tbilisi, no matter what the motives are, complicates prospects for strengthening peace and stability in the region.”