American march in Caucasus
US Vice-President Mike Pence stopped for a night in Tbilisi as part of a large diplomatic tour across Eastern Europe and post-Soviet space. Arriving to the Georgian capital late evening on July 31, Pence ended his visit at 15:00 of the next day. Nevertheless, in diplomacy, it's still called two days visit. However, diplomatic details are not that important. What's important is the background of this visit, as well as statements of the second most important man in the US administration.
As for the background, it was quite impressive: the day before the visit to Georgian Black Sea port of Poti, a ferry with American and German military equipment arrived to participate in the largest military exercises in the history of Georgia "Noble Partner-2017". They began on August 1 at the former Russian military base "Vaziani" near Tbilisi. NATO countries delivered 75 units of armored vehicles to Georgia, including heavy tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles. In addition, hundreds of units of various wheeled vehicles for transportation of personnel were brought by sea and air. A huge column with combat vehicles and personnel marched from Poti to the capital across the country. Never before had the US Army and its allies held such demonstration in Caucasus, although "Noble Partner" exercises are held in Georgia for the third time.
Participants of two-week military maneuvers are also noteworthy. In addition to five NATO members - the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Turkey and Slovenia - Ukraine and Armenia have also sent their units to Georgia. It should be noted that Azerbaijan has never participated in such maneuvers on the territory of Georgia. A total of 2,000 troops have arrived to Vaziani training ground. 1,600 of them are Americans.
Speaking to them, US Vice-President said that current owner of the White House, Donald Trump, "will not allow anyone to question territorial integrity of Georgia," as well as independence of other US partners. The statement, made when he was surrounded by tanks, sounded even more impressive than during diplomatic reception. However, on the eve, standing with a glass of Georgian wine during an official dinner at legendary Mtatsminda restaurant, Mike Pence was as radical. He said that since Russian tanks "are only 40 kilometers from Tbilisi" and Russian army is currently "conducting large-scale military exercises at the borders of a number of partner states," President Trump instructed him to tell Georgia and other allies that "the United States strongly condemn occupation of Georgian territories by Russia and will respond to actions of those states that try to damage sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia."
His response to journalist's question about how Washington plans to respond to Russian actions was even more sensational: "President Trump sent me to Georgia, Estonia and Montenegro to inform leaders of these states that the United States are faithful to their commitments... So the attack on one of NATO members is an attack on all of them." In other words, Pence essentially put Georgia, which is currently just a country that aspires to become NATO member, at the same position as full-fledged members of the alliance. If Vice-President really meant it, then such approach creates a qualitatively new geopolitical, including military-strategic situation in South Caucasus region. Especially since Moscow was closely following what is happening and probably noticed not only demonstrative participation of Armenians in the largest military maneuvers, but also demonstrative non-participation of Azerbaijani army.
Moreover, Pence didn't visit South Caucasus empty-handed. During his visit,signed an agreement appointing SSA Marine as terminal operator for the Anaklia Deep Water Black Sea Port’s container termina. In the future, this port will be able to receive ships with 150,000 tons displacement tonnage. About 100 million tons of cargo will pass through this port annually. SSA Marine will be operator and main investor of this port. Experts believe that it will be able to influence geopolitics of South Caucasus and entire Black Sea-Caspian region on the same scale as American tanks Abrams.