U.S. President Barack Obama signed on December 31 into law defense authorization bill, but listed section of the document calling for arms sales to Georgia among those, which he may treat as “non-binding”.
In hundreds of separate sections of the voluminous U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 one is dedicated to Georgia.
The section number 1242, with title Defense Cooperation with Republic of Georgia, calls for “normalization” of military cooperation with Georgia, including the sale of defensive arms.
In a signing statement on December 31, which represents comments by the President on how the administration intends to implement the law, the White House spelled out President Obama’s position on the Act saying that he had “signed this bill despite having serious reservations.”
The statement makes a focus on the provisions of the Act, which regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists – provisions authorizing indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens was strongly opposed by the civil liberties groups and human rights advocates and these provisions were the key controversial points of the bill debated recently in the United States. President Obama said in the signing statement that he would never authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, because “doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”
The same statement also lists several other sections of the Act, which President Obama said may interfere with his constitutional powers and thus may treat them as “non-binding” – among them is the section 1242, which deals with Georgia.
He cited two reasons why he would treat them as non-binding; the statement says that these provisions of the Act could interfere with the President’s constitutional foreign affairs powers and also said that these provisions “could be read to require the disclosure of sensitive diplomatic communications and national security secrets.”
The statement says that some of the provisions of the Act, including the one on Georgia, “would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiations or discussions with foreign governments.”
“Should any application of these provisions conflict with my constitutional authorities, I will treat the provisions as non-binding,” the U.S. President said in the statement.
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” of defense cooperation with Georgia. The purpose, according the legislation, is 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.
While Moscow has not publicly reacted on the legislation, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in December, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali condemned it, saying that arms sale to Tbilisi would encourage Georgia to take “aggressive” actions.