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Defence Minister announces priorities for 2009

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, February 18
Georgian Defence Minister David Sikharulidze outlined his vision of the country’s defence and security development to the diplomatic corps and NGOs on Tuesday. The ‘Minister’s Vision – 2009’ which he presented contains four main priority actions which he will undertake to increase the defence potential of the country. These are: improving defence system management and further institutionalizing it, providing better training and education for military personnel, increasing the capacity of the armed forces and supporting NATO integration and intensifying mutual cooperation.

The Defence Minister told his audience about the “lessons learnt” from the August war. “In a crisis situation every country, including Georgia, learns from its own mistakes. The aim of this self-instruction is to develop a system which will increase the country’s defence capabilities,” Sikharulidze noted, adding that this can be accomplished with the help of professionals.

The Minister briefly overviewed the activities to be undertaken in 2009. He also quantified the shortcomings exposed by the August war.

Experts have assessed the Minister’s new programme as “interesting” and “pragmatic," but have stressed the importance of actually implementing it. Military expert Irakli Aladashvili said the vision focuses on social issues as well as technical priorities. Aladashvili said the Minister talked about professionals, which means that the personnel will be chosen correctly and only professionals will be promoted. He said it is crucial that this is actually done. “It is needed that along with the desire of the Defence Ministry there is broader Government goodwill to carry out these reforms. Funds must be spent for this purpose, or we will see the same picture we had several years ago,” Aladashvili noted.

Fellow expert Irakli Sesiashvili said that this vision is different from all previous Ministers’ visions. He said the accent is on improving the quality of defence systems, not the number of reforms that will be made. Meanwhile another military expert Koba Liklikadze told journalists that the most important points in the document are those concerning personnel policy. “The previous Ministers’ visions were not bad, but the most important thing is to carry them out. It will be interesting to see how soon this will be implemented,” Liklikadze said.

Nika Laliashvili from the Parliamentary opposition, who also attended the presentation, said it is the only “adequate conceptual document.” “It demonstrates that the state has started analyzing the bitter lessons learnt recently,” Laliashvili noted.

“Minister’s Vision – 2009” says the Ministry will pay special attention to continuing to assist the families of the killed militaries during the Russian aggression and rehabilitating infrastructure it ruined. Chief of Staff Vladimer Chachibaia has expressed his hope that the programme will be implemented within a year. “The relevant funds have already been allocated for this,” Chachibaia said after the meeting.