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20 years of Georgian armed forces

By Messenger Staff
Monday, May 2
On April 30, 2011 the Georgian armed forces celebrated the 20 year anniversary of its establishment. From an historic point of view this is just a tiny period of time however it has been a difficult and dramatic period in Georgian history. The Georgian army during this period met different challenges with internal conflicts and the war with Russia. Georgian soldiers and officers were involved in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and during these 20 years the Georgian armed forces sacrificed its soldiers and officers for the protection of Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. The President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili attended trainings at Vaziani military base where he met the servicemen and made a small speech. The president said that the state is doing everything to modernize its armed forces so that it should be well-prepared, well equipped and ready to fulfill all of its tasks. Saakashvili stated that despite the attempts of Georgia’s enemy to destroy Georgia’s armed forces and demoralize it, the Georgian military managed to maintain its combat spirit and modernize very quickly. During his speech, President Saakashvili identified the country’s enemy. “We know very well who intervened into Georgia, who is occupying Georgia's territory and who has further aggressive plans against Georgia,” he said.

During the past 20 years several issues should be highlighted. The first is the short period of the formation of Georgia's armed forces of President Gamsakhurdia. Unfortunately very soon the Georgian militaries were divided into two confronting groups and eventually Gamsakhurdia's administration was ousted from the country. During the Shevardnadze administration, which lasted around 10 years, the military forces of the country did not become a priority for officials. It received very limited financing and it was not considered an essential part of the statehood. After the Rose revolution, the significance of the Georgian army has changed. Georgia’s entry in to NATO has become the priority for the country’s development. It has become necessary to develop the Georgian armed forces in compliance with NATO standards. The military budget of the country was increasing gradually, however August 2008 and the Russian aggression presented a big challenge for the country as well as the army. It should be mentioned that neither the country’s leadership nor its army was ready to fight with Russia. There are many vague pages in this direction and many questions should be answered. After the August war, the Georgian army does not receive the same financing as it did before the war. Russia announced an embargo on providing Georgia with arms which has eventually not been accepted by the west however the inflow of western arms and ammunition and technologies has certainly decreased since 2008. Despite several appeals on different levels, the US is refusing to provide Georgia with heavy defensive armament - anti aircraft and anti tank devices.

Georgian armed forces are very actively participating in peacekeeping operations held by the international community. The number of its servicemen in Afghanistan is around 1000 at the moment, which is a significant proportion of the country's population. Their performance is very much prized by commanders of a high rank. Some opposition however challenge Georgia’s participation in the operation and demand the withdrawal of Georgian militaries from peacekeeping operations, mentioning that under the current circumstances when one fifth of Georgian territory is occupied and there is still a threat from Russia it is unreasonable to send Georgia’s militaries abroad. However the Georgian leadership considers this mission as Georgia’s obligation.

Of course the biggest challenge of Georgia's armed forces and state is the territories occupied by Russia. The Kremlin aggravates the situation repeatedly, heightening the possibility of repeated Georgian aggression. These allegations however have absolutely no grounds. This is Russia who has challenged and threatened Georgia and Georgia has no intentions whatsoever to make military moves against its territories, now controlled by Russia and its puppet regimes.

As military experts are speculating, among the South Caucasus countries Georgia is the weakest from a military point of view as either Armenia or Azerbaijan spend much more money and resources on their military budget than Georgia. Besides Armenia have Russian military bases inside its territory and the agreement on military support in defending the country. Meanwhile Azerbaijan spends a huge amount of money in the military sphere. As for Georgia its military security mostly depends on political guarantees rather than equipment.