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U.S.-Georgian defense ties remain strong

By Ernest Petrosyan
Thursday, January 26
National Security Council Secretary Giga Bokeria has denied reports that U.S.-Georgian defense cooperation has been downscaled in recent years, calling them “fictitious” and “false”. According to Bokeria, “We may want further deepening of this cooperation at a faster pace and that is natural and we will discuss these issues [at the Obama-Saakashvili meeting on January 30]”.

In an interview with Tabula magazine, he affirmed that defense ties between the two countries remain strong. “This cooperation is deepening and it includes, inter alia, cooperation in the Afghan operation, which is important for global security and for our own security and also involves cooperation beyond [that in] Afghanistan. Military training has been a significant part of this cooperation, but that’s not the only sphere... Cooperation has been and is ongoing and has even deepened recently”.

As for President Obama’s veto of a provision in the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act which calls for “normalization” of military cooperation with Georgia (through the sale of defensive arms), Bokeria notes that this was more a political issue between the legislative and executive branches of the American government, and should not be interpreted as though the Obama administration is against greater military cooperation with Georgia.

“We are very grateful to all of our supporters, including those in the U.S. Senate, who have supported this kind of provision on deepening military cooperation with Georgia; they are our long-time friends,” Bokeria said. "It was not about any particular country; this is about jurisdiction – that is whether Congress has the right… to indicate to the executive, in this case to the President, what kind of policy should be carried out on the issue." He maintained that it is not appropriate for Georgia to comment on these internal political matters.

President Obama, in his signing statement on December 31, listed the provision of the National Defense Authorization Act dealing with Georgia as one which he would treat as “non-binding”, should any application of the provision conflict with his constitutional authority. He cited two reasons behind his decision; that these provisions could interfere with the President’s constitutional foreign affairs powers, and that they “could be read to require the disclosure of sensitive diplomatic communications and national security secrets.”

As a recent the statement by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip H. Gordon, reveals, the American approach to military cooperation with Georgia remains focused on education, training, and preparing Georgian troops for Afghan deployment.

“Where specific weapons sales are concerned, we treat it like we do with other countries. They’re taken on a case-by-case basis, taking a lot of factors into account. But we’ll continue that security relationship with Georgia in all of those ways,” Gordon said.