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Russia criticizes U.S.-Georgia military cooperation

By Ernest Petrosyan
Thursday, March 29
The Russian Foreign Ministry is concerned about U.S. military cooperation with Georgia, saying on Tuesday that such a relationship “is fraught with rather grave consequences for peace” in the region because of the “unpredictability of the Saakashvili regime".

Asked at the news conference to comment on “the U.S. decision to resume the supply of arms to Georgia, which was suspended in 2008”, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesperson, Alexander Lukashevich, read out a statement on U.S.-Georgia defense cooperation. A reference was made to remarks by U.S. Ambassador-designate to Georgia, Richard Norland who, at his nomination hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 21, announced that the U.S. had approved the sale of M4 Carbine assault rifles to Georgia.

“Last year the U.S. embassy in Moscow informed us about Washington’s plan to provide the Georgian military unit in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan with M4 Carbines and armored Hummer vehicles and in this regard we sent a note on 5 September 2011 to the U.S., which expressed concern about such actions by the American side,” Lukashevich said.

“[Georgia’s] participation in the ISAF mission in itself seems to serve as a justification for continued re-militarization and as yet another reason to push the candidacy of this country for NATO membership," he continued.

According to Lukashevich, it is of crucial importance for Russia that the weapons used by Georgian forces in Afghanistan do not reappear in Georgia later. “As shown by the tragic events of August 2008, the Saakashvili regime can use these [weapons] against both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including against citizens of the Russian Federation residing in these countries,” he said.

“Particularly in this context we consider the U.S.-Georgian joint drills 'Agile Spirit 2012', whose main task was as stated, 'practicing skills to combat insurgency',” Lukashevich noted. He questioned which insurgents Georgian authorities are exactly going to struggle against with U.S. support.

“Taking into account the irresponsibility and unpredictability of the Saakashvili regime, any cooperation with Tbilisi in the military sphere is fraught with rather grave consequences for peace and stability in the Caucasus. From this point of view, we are naturally watching all forms of American-Georgian cooperation in the defense sphere very closely,” he remarked.

He also drew attention to the regular visits of U.S. Navy ships to Georgian ports, including those equipped with the Aegis system "of advanced antimissile weaponry”.

“No matter what explanations are given for these [port calls], it is obvious that these port calls are perceived by the Georgian leadership as encouragement of its revanchist ambitions,” Lukashevich asserted.