A NATO survey team is visiting Georgia this week to elaborate proposals over location and operation of the planned joint training and evaluation center, which is one of the main components of the substantial package of cooperation the alliance endorsed for Georgia at its summit in Wales in September
Head of the NATO Liaison Office in Georgia, William Lahue, said that with this assessment mission the team is starting a process, which should lead to decisions about the location, detailed mission, organization and standard operating procedures of the planned joint training and evaluation center.
“This is the beginning of the process, which will lead to further integration of Georgia with NATO and further progress for the full integration with NATO,” Lahue said at a joint news conference with Georgian deputy defense minister Levan Girsiashvili.
“Based on recommendations laid out by the NATO survey team, we will jointly determine location of the center, as well as estimated initial cost of the project,” the Georgian deputy defense minister said.
The trailing center will be located on the existing Georgian military facility; Vaziani military base outside Tbilisi is one of the potential locations.
“We intend to establish the center tentatively by autumn,” the deputy defense minister said.
“We fully acknowledge importance of setting up of this center in Georgia, all the available resources will be directed towards efficient and timely implementation of this initiative,” he said. “This center is one of the most important and ambitious initiatives in frames of the substantial package with NATO.”
Both the Georgian deputy defense minister and NATO diplomat said that the center would pose no threat to anyone.
“It is not a military base; this is a training and evaluation center,” Girsiashvili said.
“I think it’s important to understand that this joint training and evaluation center is an organization that is dedicated to supporting Georgia, as well as allies and their partners in their training and this organization will be located on the Georgian military facility and there will be several NATO officers, but they will be working with their Georgian counterparts in a joint organization; so it does not present any type of military threat or increase directly in military capabilities,” Lahue said.
He said that the center will provide training to servicemen from Georgia, NATO member states and their partners to help increase their interoperability.
The NATO survey team, which is led by Norway, also includes officers from Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark and Germany, and is also supported by the U.S. and NATO staff.
Lahue also said that this is the first team to arrive in Georgia for the implementation of the substantial package. Other NATO teams are also expected to visit Georgia in “coming weeks and months” for the implementation of other components of the substantial package.
Defense Minister, Mindia Janelidze, who presented on March 16 minister’s vision – a document outlining MoD’s priorities for 2015-2016, named increase of Georgian armed forces’ interoperability with NATO and “ongoing active implementation” of the substantial package with the alliance among the priorities.
He also listed development of country’s “defense capabilities”, specifically in terms of anti-armor, air defense, artillery and communications capabilities, among the priorities.
“Increase of defense capabilities is necessary part of development of our armed forces, but it is also difficult, lengthy process, which cannot be done immediately,” Janelidze said, adding that the MoD will be focused on procuring new and improving defensive capabilities.