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Georgian Defence Ministry publishes new strategy

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, February 4
The Georgian Defence Development Strategy in 2009 will be based on the “lessons learnt” during the South Ossetian war, said the Georgian Defence Ministry on February 3.

The Ministry has published its “Minister’s Vision – 2009.” According to the official webpage of the MOD this “vision” sets priorities which will ensure “a unity of effort in implementing measures for defence sphere development and postwar rehabilitation.” The “vision” is designed to improve military planning and decision making mechanisms. According to the document, the MOD plans “to institutionalize” the process of the comprehensive analysis and study of “lessons learnt” in the August war in order “to eradicate shortcomings.”

Among several priorities, the document underlines necessities which must be included in future training programmes of Georgian servicemen. The MOD plans “to continue the improvement of [servicemen’s] qualifications abroad” and teach them foreign languages “at a proper level.” It also says that efforts will be made to increase the armed forces’ command and control, C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) capabilities, communication systems and information security, and “to institutionalize” the planning, programming and budgeting system (PPBS).

The Georgian reserve troops system, initially devised to replace obligatory military service with short-term training, was subject to a lot of criticism after the August war and was suspended in late 2008. The Minister’s Vision states that the reserves will have a “new concept based on experience gained from the August war.”

The Ministry states that Georgia plans to revise its Strategic Defence Review (SDR), approved in November, 2007.. The SDR is a comprehensive analysis and assessment of the country’s defence capabilities, and provides guidance for those undertaking defence system transformation processes until 2015.

Integration with NATO still remains the most important priority of the Georgian Defence Ministry. “Ensuring compatibility with NATO [standards] is one of the priorities of the armed forces, and this involves undertaking measures for the establishment of NATO-interoperable, modern and expeditionary forces.” The Ministry states that the new strategy will be oriented towards cooperation with North-Atlantic bloc and “intensification” of Georgia’s relations with it. According to the document Georgia plans to “participate in international peacekeeping and/or antiterrorist operations.”

Unlike previous documents of this type, outlining former Defence Ministers’ visions, this year’s paper does not contain a separate chapter about threats and risks; previous documents were based on threat assessment papers which said there was “little possibility” of open military aggression against Georgia. Although there is no separate chapter on the matter however the Minister’s Vision - 2009 does mention “the need for defence from possible military aggression.”

Several Georgian Military analysts have already given a positive evaluation of the document, stating that it addresses the major problems of the Georgian Armed forces. Independent Georgian military expert Koba Liklikadze has stated that the Minister’s Vision sets important priorities for the future development of the Georgian Army and is directed to eradicating the mistakes made in the August war. However Liklikadze notes that “It is quite easy to write a fine-sounding document in any country, but the most important question is whether these priorities will be adhered to in reality.

“Georgian Defence Minister Davit Sikharulidze is the fifth to hold this position in recent times. I consider that although his priorities sound good he still needs to obtain the possibility of fulfilling them from the country’s General in-Chief [the President of Georgia], ” said the analyst, speaking to The Messenger on February 3. He added that the biggest problem in the Georgian Army at present is a lack of professional officers. “Many officers were sacked before the August conflict, and if you ask me a lot were sacked unfairly; a lot of Georgian officers were also killed during the war, that’s why the Georgian Army now has this problem with personnel. If Sikharulidze manages to resolve this problem and reinstate the unfairly sacked officers then I’ll say that his work has been successful.”