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NATO exercises officially start

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, May 13
The first part of the NATO exercise Cooperative Lancer/Cooperative Longbow 2009 began at Vaziani military base near the Georgian capital Tbilisi on May 11.

Despite Russia protesting against the exercises and the number of participating countries falling from 19 to 14, Georgian state officials and NATO officers still feel they are “an important step for the development of relations between NATO and Georgia.”

“I would like to emphasize the importance of exercises like these within the Partnership for Peace environment, as one of the most useful tools to pursue its long-standing policy of partnership and cooperation among all Euro-Atlantic countries, in order to preserve peace, promote democracy and contribute to prosperity and progress,” stated Spanish Lieutenant-General Cayetano Miro Valls, who is the chief commander of the trainings. Answering The Messenger’s question about Russia’s objections and the refusal of several countries to participate, Valls said that he is “surprised” by the position of Russia and underlined that the exercises are part of the Partnership for Peace Programme (PFP) and are designed to train international troops to conduct peacekeeping operations. Russia, among other NATO partner states, was invited to participate in them. “What can we say about those who refused to take part in the trainings? It’s a pity,” stated the General at a press conference on May 11.

“This is the fourth such training in the Cooperative exercise series, the successor to the Best Effort series, the last of which was conducted by this NATO HQ in Ukraine in 2005. The first exercise under the new name Longbow/Langer took place in 2006, in Moldova. In 2007, it was hosted by Albania; in 2008, by Armenia and this year we are here in Georgia. As I mentioned earlier, these exercises are staged within the context of the Partnership for Peace: let me stress this last word, peace, because the PFP Programme seeks to promote reform, increase stability, diminish threats to peace and build stronger security relationships between individual partner countries and NATO,” noted General Valls.

Cooperative Longbow 09 is a multinational brigade command post exercise aiming to train staff and improve communications procedures within a fictitious scenario, and will be conducted at the Vaziani Base facilities from the 11 to 19 May. It will be followed by Cooperative Lancer 09, which like all Lancer exercises is a live training exercise focusing on developing light infantry skills across a range of situations in peace-support operations. It will also be conducted at the Vaziani Base from 21 May to 1 June. The organizers state that the scenario for both exercise will be “based on a fictitious UN-mandated NATO-led Crisis Response Operation, and derives from earlier tested and always fictitious scenarios.”

The Longbow exercise was officially opened by Georgian Minister of Defence Vasil (Davit) Sikharulidze, who stated that “Cooperative Longbow and Cooperative Lancer 2009 will help our contingents to enhance their capabilities to provide further efficient joint contributions to international security. When the situation demands, we are expected to react quickly and perform effectively to secure regional and global peace and stability; and in our globalized world, international cooperative effort is certainly the most efficient way to deliver such reactions.”

“The NATO exercises in Georgia are an open provocation. One can’t conduct an exercise there, where a war recently took place,” stated Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month. Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said that Moscow sent an official request to the NATO Secretary General asking him to cancel the trainings but no response was received. “Provocations are not excluded during the NATO trainings in Georgia and the full responsibility for that will lie on the alliance,” said Rogozin, adding that Cooperative Longbow / Lancer 2009 in Georgia is “provocation, absurdity and madness.”

“These exercises are not directed against anyone,” stated Giorgi Baramidze, the Georgian State Minster on Euro-Atlantic Integration on May 11. Baramidze considers that Longbow/Lancer 2009 trainings are an important step towards the integration of Georgia into NATO. The total number of soldiers participating in the exercises will be more than 1,000, including about 300 foreign troops.