The U.S. defense authorization bill contains a section, which calls for “normalization” of military cooperation with Georgia, including the sale of defensive arms.
The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, a voluminous document authorizing appropriations for military activities of the Department of Defense, has a section with title “Defense cooperation with Republic of Georgia”. The Senate approved the USD 662 billion defence bill on December 15, a day after the bill was passed by the House of Representatives and it is now expected to be signed by President Obama.
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The portion of the legislation dealing with Georgia says that the U.S. Secretary of Defense should submit to the congressional committees for defense and foreign affairs within 90 days after the bill is enacted a “plan for normalization” with a purpose to support Georgia “in providing for the defense of its government, people, and sovereign territory, consistent with the continuing commitment of the Government of the Republic of Georgia to its nonuse-of-force pledge.”
It calls for the sale of the U.S. “defense articles and services” and also for encouraging “NATO member and candidate countries to restore and enhance their sales of defensive articles and services to the Republic of Georgia as part of a broader NATO effort to deepen its defense relationship and cooperation” with Georgia.
The plan should include “a needs-based assessment” prepared by the U.S. Department of Defense about Georgia’s defense requirements, as well as list of “each of the requests” made by Georgia for purchase of defense arms during the last two years. The plan should be submitted in unclassified form, although may contain a classified annex, according to the document.
U.S. Republican Sen. John McCain, who has previously called on the U.S. administration for number of times “to resume” arms sale to Georgia, highlighted this section of the bill dealing with Georgia in his remarks on December 15.
“U.S. defense cooperation with the Republic of Georgia has been stalled ever since Russia invaded that country three years ago,” he said. “While there has been some slow and minor progress to enable Georgia’s armed forces to deploy to Afghanistan – which they have done in greater numbers than most of our NATO allies – precious little has been done to strengthen Georgia’s ability to defend its government, people, and territory.”
According to the U.S. officials currently defense cooperation with Georgia focuses on two areas – helping the country in its defense reforms and training and equipping Georgian soldiers for the deployment in Afghanistan.
Georgian officials, including President Saakashvili, have said for number of times previously about Tbilisi’s willingness to purchase air defense and anti-tank weapons. President Saakashvili said earlier this year that it should become “the next stage of cooperation” with the U.S. in the defense field.