U.S. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, said Washington had been “careful” in providing military assistance to Georgia.
“First of all, every sovereign country has the right to provide for its own defense,” he said in an interview with the Russian news agency, Interfax, when asked about Russia’s concerns over, as Moscow terms it, “re-arming Georgia.”
The interview was recorded ahead of the U.S. Defense Secretary’s meeting with his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, in Washington on September 15.
“We have been, I think, careful in what we have provided to Georgia. We also are interested in providing Georgia with the means by which they can help us in Afghanistan, and so a good part of the training and other things that we're doing with the Georgians are because they have been so willing to make a contribution of considerable importance to our efforts in Afghanistan,” Gates said.
In an interview with Newsweek, published on September 12, President Saakashvili said Tbilisi hoped the U.S. would help with defensive weapons as part of ongoing security cooperation between the two countries.
New York-based EurasiaNet.org, a website providing information about developments in Caucasus and Central Asia, reported on September 15 that lobbyists for Tbilisi in the United States were working behind the scenes to urge U.S. officials to approve weapons sales to Georgia.
According to this report Orion Strategies, a lobbying and public relations firm hired by Georgia, provided EurasiaNet.org with examples of four defense deals between U.S. companies and Georgia that it claimed were blocked by the U.S. Department of State. Two of the companies involved, General Dynamics and AM General, best known for manufacturing military Humvee, declined to comment, according to EursaiaNet.org and two others - Colt Defense, manufacturer of the M4 rifle, and Arms Tech, denied the account provided by Orion Strategies as not correct.
Orion Strategies, owned by Randy Scheunemann, a foreign policy adviser to John McCain's 2008 Republican presidential campaign and now a foreign policy adviser to former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is Georgia’s long-time contractor. The Georgian National Security Council extended contract with Orion in January, 2010 for one more year for USD 420,000.
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