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U.S. Senior Diplomat on Defense Cooperation with Georgia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 10 Jan.'12 / 12:10

The U.S. approach on military cooperation with Georgia remains focused on education, training and preparing Georgian troops for Afghan deployment, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip H. Gordon, said at a news conference in Washington on January 9.

Asked if the administration was going to implement a provision in the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which calls for “normalization” of military cooperation with Georgia, including the sale of defensive arms, Gordon responded: “I don’t think it changes our approach so far.”

“We have a security relationship with Georgia that has significantly been focused on education and training, and on Georgia’s hugely important commitment to Afghanistan,” the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State said.

“Where specific weapons sales are concerned, we treat it like we do with other countries. They’re taken 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,” he said.

In his signing statement on December 31, President Obama listed the provision of the defense authorization act dealing with Georgia, among those sections of the Act, which he would treat as “non-binding” should any application of the provision conflict with his constitutional authorities. President Obama cited two reasons behind his decision; the statement said 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 January 9 remarks by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Philip H. Gordon, are in line with his and other U.S. officials statements made on the issue previously.

As seen from the U.S. officials’ public remarks over the past three years, Washington is making more focus on education and training to increase the Georgian armed forces skills before moving to possible sale of lethal weapons sometime in the future. As one December, 2009 leaked U.S. diplomatic cable put it, Washington “reoriented its focus and placed significant resources into supporting a ‘brains before brawn’ approach.”

Both privately, as seen from number of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables, and publicly too the Georgian officials have been pushing for acquisition of the U.S. anti-aircraft and anti-armor systems. As one February, 2010 leaked cable said, amid fears among Georgian officials that Russia was looking for pretext for another attack, “Tbilisi, in turn, is overly focused on weapons acquisition as an antidote to its jitters.”
 
In his January 9 remarks the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State stressed on importance of Georgia’s contribution to the Afghan operation, saying that “Georgia, on a per capita basis, is one of the most, either first or second, biggest contributors to Afghanistan.”

“They have, even in recent days, taken casualties. And it underscores the risks that they are taking on our common behalf, protecting common security, and we will continue to work with Georgia on that basis,” Gordon said.

Georgia will become the largest contributor to the ISAF on a per capita basis and the largest non-NATO contributor of troops after it sends additional battalion to Afghanistan this year on top of 936 Georgian soldiers who already serve in Afghanistan, most of them in the Helmand province without caveats.

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