Georgian and American military forces are taking part in joint military exercises between 11 and 26 May, known as “Noble Partner”, with the intention of making Georgian military units compatible with NATO structures. Russia called the move “provocative” this week.
Around 1,300 troops will take part, including 650 members of the US European Command, 500 troops from Georgia, and 150 from the UK. American "Abrams" tanks will be involved in the region for the first time, to teach the Georgian armed forces. Other military equipment, including C-130 aircraft, will be used.
The Georgian Defense Ministry say the exercises are aimed at improving interoperability between Georgian and American units. However, the Russian foreign ministry called it a provocation aimed at swaying the situation in the South Caucasus.
“We regard this ongoing “exploration” of Georgia’s territory by NATO forces as a provocative step aimed at escalating the military and political situation in the South Caucasus,” the ministry said in a statement. “To a large extent, this is encouraged by Washington’s and its allies’ open connivance at Tbilisi’s revanchist ambitions.”
Georgia’s foreign ministry responded on May 7, rejecting the Russian accusations.
“We would like to state unequivocally that Georgia is an independent and sovereign country, which enjoys the right to hold any type of exercise on its territory. Furthermore, it is Georgia’s sovereign right to determine its partners in the military sphere as well as forms of cooperation with them.”
Georgia’s prime minister, Georgi Kvirikashvili, also strongly rejected the Russian criticism on Monday.
“These exercises are not directed against anyone. I think that there is no trace of a provocation in the given activities. Agreements between the Russian Federation and Abkhazia and Russian Federation and South Ossetia contain much more provocative elements,” he said.
SOURCE: commonspace.eu and agencies
PHOTO: Arrival of US and British soldiers to Georgia for the upcoming exercises Noble Partner (Photo courtesy of the Georgia Department of Defense)