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NATO tanks in Georgia: What, in fact, does Noble Partner 2016 deserve?

Senaki military base in Georgia after withdrawal of Russian troops in August 2008. Photo: f.inosmi.ru

NATO Exercise Noble Partner 2016 has started in Georgia. The exercise involves the Georgian, U.S. and British militaries. It is noteworthy that the number of the guest soldiers is higher than the ones of the host country. This U.S.-led exercise will give Georgia the first NATO-licensed company.

Georgian Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli who graduated from the Soros School has got euphoric with the event unlike many citizens of Georgia.

Georgia’s leadership was present at the opening ceremony, which shows its attitude to the maneuvers. Besides Defense Minister Khidasheli and Head of the General Staff of Georgia’s Armed Forces Major General Vakhtang Kapanadze, attending the exercise were President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili who addressed those present with a welcoming speech, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, government and parliamentary officials as well as the foreign diplomats in Georgia.

As it was mentioned above, Tinatin Khidasheli is in euphoria with the fact the U.S. and British soldiers are standing beside the Georgian army. Her husband – Parliamentary Speaker David Usupashvili - has openly said that Georgia’s Armed Forces have not yet de-occupied the country and to settle that task, the courageous and heroic Georgian soldiers will need NATO’s versatile support (David Usupashvili and Tinatin Khidasheli have not resigned after their Republican Party left the ruling Georgian Dream coalition).

Similar drills were held in 2015 involving 400 Georgian and 200 U.S. soldiers. This time, 500 Georgian soldiers, 650 U.S. and British soldiers are taking part in the maneuvers. U.S. has dispatched Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and eight M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, as well as self-propelled artillery and other armory. One can guess from the dynamics how large-scale will be the maneuvers in 2017.

They present the maneuvers as a method to upgrade the country’s security, but is it true? Many political figures in Georgia say such exercise adversely affects the country’s security. Ex-speaker of the Georgian parliament Nino Burjanadze has repeatedly said that NATO does not hurry to open doors to Georgia, but never misses an opportunity to benefit from it.

It is no secret how Russia can respond to an attempt of the NATO troops to envelop its borders. While similar processes – import of old combat vehicles – in the Baltic States can be explained with the NATO membership of the region’s countries, the situation with Georgia is quite different.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has already demanded explanations over Usupashvili’s statement. Naturally, it is very interesting for everyone to learn if Georgia has chosen the military option of settling the problem, as Azerbaijan did in the case of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Russian foreign ministry called the Noble Partner 2016 "provocative maneuvers." “We consider this sustainable ’reclamation’ of the Georgian territory by the NATO military as a provocative step aimed at deliberate destabilization of the military-political situation in South Caucasus. Washington and its allies that are openly appeasing Tbilisi’s revanchist aspirations also contribute to that to a considerable degree," the ministry said. It is natural that Russia is concerned over the exercise, but this problem occupies minds in Georgia too. Thus, ex-defense minister Irakli Alasania harshly criticizes Khidasheli saying she has not done anything essential for the army.

Khidasheli said she had been bearing the accusations for a year and now she is run out of patience, and so answered Alasania. It should be noted in parenthesis that she had better further kept silent, as her words resembled a squabble in a common kitchen. MP Tamaz Mechiauri is as always accurate it his statements. “Khidasheli should know at least computer games about war,” he said pointing at the minister’s incompetence in the field. Mechiauri is sure that everything the leadership does is for their own image, not for the interests of the army and the country.

How to respond to such criticism? With labelling, indeed. Just call all the opponents opposing the pro-Western policy of Georgia as Russia’s agents.

Meantime, none of the local critics is pro-Russian. All they care for the interests of their country, first. Who in Georgia needs war? It would be much more comfortable to sing Uncle Sam’s praises and do not swim upstream.

The foreign minister, in turn, reminded its Russian counterparts that Georgia is a sovereign country and does not ask anyone a permission to hold maneuvers. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said: “The political team that is governing the country is not an unchangeable organism, it is changing and we are in this process now. The current mess is totally inappropriate and pursues just self-assertion. Therefore, I urge those who have voiced that senseless widespread concern over the issue to look into the country’s decision and foreign policy line – nothing has changed there. Let everyone understand that Georgia’s security is in its cooperation with its Western partners.”

Tinatin Khidasheli is happy to see such an unprecedented number foreign partners next to Georgia. It is necessary to remind her that in 1918 after defeat of Kaiser’s Germany, the German military contingent was replaced with the British one. The troops of the Entente, which was a kind of predecessor of NATO, had been in the territory of Georgia for a long time, but it brought nothing good to the country.

In the summer of 2008, NATO conducted joint exercise Immediate Response 2008 in the territory of Georgia. The U.S. delivered military hardware to Georgia, “the fanfare blared forth,” Senaki (a town in the west of Georgia) was built. Then the august 2008 tragedy happened that resulted in bloodshed on both sides. A question arises as to whether those maneuvers upgraded Georgia’s security.

Maybe, it was those maneuvers that incited insane Saakashvili to ignore the Russian army with its old tanks, since he could reach Sochi within a couple of days. He was holding military parades, demonstrating to the world the NATO-trained army, the West’s assistance, for which the Georgian soldiers paid with their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then he was running away from his bodyguards scared by the noise of a Russian fighter jet. Whom that theatrical performance was staged for?

Many would remember what happened to the U.S. military hardware, how long and uselessly Americans tried to bring back their military Hummers equipped with advanced technologies, which the Russian army took as prizes of war. The Russian military specialists did not conceal that they received many valuable data from both the electronic systems and armory of the vehicles. The Abkhazian army significantly increased its reserves of small arms. What did Georgia receive beside sufferings? How did NATO help it? They sent a new list of recommendations and condolences over the death of Georgian military in Afghanistan. We criticize the Soviet past for “imperialism” and Afghanistan, but still war in a coalition with the aggressive American empire and make sacrifices…

The most important thing is that the problems with Tskhinvali and Sukhumi have deteriorated so that their settlement appears to be impossible without cooperation with Moscow.

Fortunately, in Georgia there are still people who are not afraid of labelling and insist on their right to freedom of speech. They tell the truth to the people. “This exercise is part of a show. While the leadership of NATO, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, the top officials, and the foreign minister say that neither we nor Ukraine should hope for a NATO membership within the near future, our top leadership misleads the population promising sooner NATO membership and delivering military hardware to the country to show that the country has a foreign support,” Tamaz Mechiauri said.

Yet, someone needs to say that the king has no clothes!

Irakli Chkheidze, Viktor Yakubyan for EADaily

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