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Tbilisi has “no specific position” on missile defense radar deployment

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, February 8
Georgia has no specific position regarding the possible deployment of missile defense related radar systems in Georgia, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Speaking at the regular Monday press briefing, the Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Jalaghania said it is an “interesting” initiative and “very important in terms of regional security and stability.” He was commenting on an initiative of four Republican senators calling on the administration of US President Barack Obama to place missile defense related radar systems in Georgia rather than in Turkey as initially planned.

“We believe that the US should deploy the most effective missile defenses possible - in partnership with our allies – that provide for the protection of the US homeland, our deployed forces and our allies,” a letter of senators Jon Kyl, James Risch, Mark Kirk and James Inhofe to the Defense Secretary Robert Gates reads, as quoted by Foreign Policy magazine. The senators have responded to the demands of Turkish officials that Ankara will agree to the missile defense radars being located in Turkey if the United States does not share the information gathered by the radar with Israel. “Turkey also wants command and control over the radar and wants NATO to remove any references to Iran as the threat targeted by the missile shield,” the magazine wrote.

In their letter the senators noted that “the Republic of Georgia’s geographic location would make it an ideal site for a missile defense radar system aimed at Iran, and would offer clear advantages for the protection of the United States from a long range missile compared with Turkey. What’s more, the Republic of Georgia should be a significant partner for future defense cooperation with the US.” The senators asked the US Defense Secretary to inform them if Georgia was considered as a possible host for the radar site and “if not, what other alternatives the Pentagon is considering.”

Foreign Policy magazine has suggested the prospects of NATO or the US administration placing a missile defense radar site in Georgia are “slim” as Georgia is not a member of NATO and because “the consequences for US-Russia and NATO-Russia relations could be devastating.” Meanwhile Georgian officials have refrained from making specific comments. “This is an initiative of four US Senators, which is directed towards the US administration and it is up to the US political and governmental structures to make a decision,” the Deputy Georgian Foreign Minister said. “I cannot say that Georgia has any specific position or any strategic plan so far. It is an interesting initiative in terms of regional security and stability, involving the possibility to place such systems in Turkey. So, we consider it too early to make any specific comments for now,” Jalaghania added.

Georgian analysts have suggested that placing anti-missile radar systems in Georgia would enhance the country’s defense capacities. “These radars can be used against any missile systems, so this would strengthen Georgia’s defense capabilities,” analyst Kakha Gogolashvili said. Analyst, Nika Chitadze noted he expects other Republican Senators to join the initiative as well. “After the US congress elections, the influence of the Republican Senators has increased, so it is important that the initiative of the Republicans be shared by other members of the party as well,” Chitadze stated.