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Military drills trigger politically-driven decisions

By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Wednesday, September 6
Within the framework of Georgian-American partnership another NATO-supported military exercise has been launched in Georgia on September 3. For the annual training Agile Spirit 2017, the US has sent 500 soldiers and heavy armoured vehicles. And, one of the most important joint military events in the region involves wide range of offensive and defensive exercises.

The purpose of Agile Spirit drills which are led by the General Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces and US Marine Corps is to improve military cooperation between participants to support the regional security.

"This is the seventh iteration of the annually scheduled multilateral exercise designed to enhance US, Georgian and regional partner interoperability and strengthen understanding of each nation’s tactics, techniques and procedures," noted the Pentagon in the press release.

To achieve this goal, it is very important that the neighbouring countries cooperate with each other. The Agile Spirit 2017 drill could have been the first joint military exercise among Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, however, at the last moment Yerevan declined to take part in it. Georgian Defense Ministry officials said that further details on the decision from the Armenian side are not known.

"We plan initially our participation in this or that event, but the official confirmation comes close to the date of the event. Armenia has never confirmed her participation. Therefore, [Armenia] has not declined to participate," said Deputy Defense Minister Artak Zakharyan.

There are a few important facts that might cast a light to Armenia's refrainment from participation:

• Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. And, Russia is against NATO’s military drills near her borders;

• Because of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia has a tense relationship with Azerbaijan and therefore, with Turkey which is a military and political ally of Azerbaijan;

• In 2016, Armenia and Russia signed an agreement on the creation of united military unit;

• In 2017, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey signed a trilateral military defense memorandum.

It seems that the multinational military drills and participation of the countries shall serve as a good indicator of the geopolitical situation in the region. Armenia’s decline in participation might be an indication that the country still remains in tense relationship with Azerbaijan and/or as a member of Russian-led CSTO, Armenia has recently been under pressure for taking part in NATO –supported military exercises. Russia has voiced a number of times that she would not welcome NATO’s presence close to her borders.

Here’s a short overview of military drills that have taken place in the region since 2015:

Military drills in 2015

The Caucasian Eagle - Hosted by Turkey, participants: Georgia and Azerbaijan; Armenia and Russia were not involved;

The Agile Spirit 2015 - Hosted by Georgia, participants: United States. Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia. No neighboring countries were involved;

The Noble Partner 2015 - Hosted by Georgia, participants: The U.S. No neighboring countries were involved;

The “Aragats 2015” - Hosted by Armenia, participants: Russia, Georgia. Turkey and Azerbaijan were not involved.

Military drills in 2016

The Caucasian Eagle - Hosted by Turkey, participants: Georgia, Azerbaijan. Armenia and Russia were not involved;

The Agile Spirit 2016 - Hosted by Georgia; participants: The U.S. Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia; No neighbouring countries were involved.

The Noble Partner 2016 - Hosted by Georgia; participants: The U.S. Great Britain; No neighboring countries were involved.

Military drills at the Alagyaz shooting range - Hosted by Armenia; participants: Russia, Georgia. Turkey and Azerbaijan were not involved;

Military drills in 2017

The Caucasian Eagle 2017 - Hosted by Georgia, participants: Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia and Russia have not been involved;

The Noble Partner 2017- Hosted by Georgia: participants: Turkey, U.S. England, Germany, Slovenia, Armenia, and Ukraine. Azerbaijan and Russia have not been involved.

The Agile Spirit 2017 - Hosted by Georgia; participants: Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania, Ukraine, Azerbaijan. Armenia decided not to participate at the last moment.