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US Congress Passes Bill Calling for Resumption of Defense Arms Sales to Georgia

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, December 19
The US Senate approved the USD 662 billion US defense authorization bill for the 2012 fiscal year on December 15. A day later the document passed through the House of Representatives and is now expected to be signed by President Barack Obama. The voluminous document for military activities of the US Department of Defense, contains a section entitled “Defense cooperation with the Republic of Georgia”, which envisages the resumption of military collaboration with Georgia.

The section of the document referring to Georgia calls on the US president to submit to the congressional committees for defense and foreign affairs within 90 days after the bill enactment date a “plan for normalization” with the purpose of supporting Georgia “in providing for the defense of its government, people, and sovereign territory, consistent with the continuing commitment of the Government of the Republic of Georgia to its nonuse-of-force pledge.”

The section calls for the sale of US “defense articles and services” and also for encouraging “NATO member and candidate countries to restore and enhance their sales of defensive articles and services to the Republic of Georgia as part of a broader NATO effort to deepen its defense relationship and cooperation” with Georgia.

As the documents reads, the plan should include “a needs-based assessment” prepared by the US Department of Defense about Georgia’s defense requirements, as well as a list of “each of the requests” made by Georgia for purchase of defense arms during the last two years. The plan should be submitted in an unclassified form; nonetheless, according to the document, it may contain a classified annex.

The republican Senator John McCain, previously called on the Obama administration a number of times “to resume” arms sale to Georgia, highlighted this section of the bill dealing with Georgia in his remarks on December 15

“US defense cooperation with the Republic of Georgia has been stalled ever since Russia invaded that country three years ago,” said McCain. “While there has been some slow and minor progress to enable Georgia’s armed forces to deploy to Afghanistan – which they have done in greater numbers than most of our NATO allies – precious little has been done to strengthen Georgia’s ability to defend its government, people, and territory,” he said.

According to US officials, the current defense cooperation format with Georgia focuses on two areas – helping the country in its defense reforms and training and equipping Georgian soldiers for deployment in Afghanistan within the ISAF mission.

As for Georgian officials, including President Saakashvili, they have expressed their will a number of times to purchase air defense and anti-tank weapons from the US. According to President Saakashvili, it should become “the next stage of cooperation” with the US in the defense field.

Talking to The Messenger Georgian military analyst Irakli Sesiashvili welcomed the US congress initiative on the resumption of defense arms supply. “Indeed this is good initiative since the issue of equipment of the Georgian army has been very real. The Georgian army had to buy either outdated NATO arms, or also outdated Russian arms. Now the Georgian military will be trained with modern arms,” said Sesiashvili. He however cast doubts on whether the US will sell air defense systems to Georgia. “Due to the of Obama Administration’s reset policy with Russia, the US has been refusing to sell us air defense systems, since it could essentially bolster the militarization of the region, since Russia would inevitably increase its military presence in the occupied regions,” noted the analyst.