Vakhtang Maisaya: "The resumption of military cooperation between Israel and Georgia is linked to the regional issues"
Defense Minister of Israel Avigdor Lieberman paid a two-day working visit to Tbilisi. This is the first visit to Georgia of an influential Israeli politician and statesman, and, more importantly, the first visit of the head of the defense department. The political leader of the Israel Defence Forces visited Georgia amid the difficult geopolitical situation in the region due to the unsettled Caucasian conflicts and the ongoing war in Syria.
Lieberman and his Georgian colleague Levan Izoria discussed the reserve system, which is now being implemented in Georgia and largely adopts the Israeli experience, cybersecurity, and also, for the first time, signed a declaration on the development of cooperation in the defense sphere. Izoria called the document ‘historical’, meaning that the declaration creates a legal basis for Georgia's cooperation with one of the strongest military powers, not only of the region but of the world. The Georgian minister said that "Israel would resume assistance to Georgia in the defense sphere." The term ‘would resume’ is a hint at the previous stage of the relationship, which began right after the ‘five-day war’ and has come to an end only now. Lieberman laid a wreath at the memorial of Georgian servicemen who died for territorial integrity and also held talks with the Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, who according to the Georgian constitution, has the real power in the country, like the prime minister in Israel.
However, the purpose of the visit of the Israeli Defense Minister to Georgia remains a mystery. Today, the situation in the Greater Middle East region is not that favourable for the Israeli Defense Minister to waste time on ceremonial visits. The head of the Israeli Defense Ministry did not visit Georgia even during the reign of Mikhail Saakashvili when the military cooperation was much more intensive than now: Georgia purchased dozens of UAVs in Israel, and some units of the Georgian army underwent specialized training on the Israeli bases. It is precisely known that Israelis were preparing snipers for the Georgian army. But the 2008 war crossed out virtually all areas of the military cooperation. Israel stopped selling Georgia drones and forbade its instructors to train military specialists for the Georgian army. The main factor here was a consideration of Russia’s interests.
However, as a result of the last decade events, a new situation has developed in the region: Israel actively cooperates in the military sphere with Azerbaijan, which buys weapons of Israeli production. There are logistical issues, that is, a diversification of the ways of arms delivery to a buyer country. There are other aspects of the bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Doctor of Military Sciences Vakhtang Maisaya spoke about these issues with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What is the real purpose of Lieberman's visit to Tbilisi?
- Of course, it was about logistics and communications, if not basic, then auxiliary ones. But to an even greater extent, this visit is a manifestation of Israel's interest in developing relations with Georgia in the light of the regional alignment and growing role of Iran in the South Caucasus.
Israelis closely monitor the development of relations between regional players. It is possible that Israel really plans to resume the military-technical cooperation with Georgia. It was interrupted 10 years ago when the Israeli side imposed an embargo on contacts in the military sphere with Mikhail Saakashvili’s Georgia.
- And what is the regional context?
- It is linked with Turkey as the most important player. But the most obvious is the successful development of the Israeli-Azerbaijani cooperation. It has been developing very dynamically in recent years. At the same time, Azerbaijan maintains good relations with Moscow, that is, the cooperation with Baku does not create additional risks and problems.
Azerbaijan purchased weapons in Russia for $ 5 billion. For the modern world and our region, this is a huge figure. In addition, before the last meeting of the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan, the media speculated a lot about the possible entry of Azerbaijan into the CSTO.
The resumption of the military cooperation between Israel and Georgia is not so much related to the bilateral as to the regional issues. At the same time, the current Georgian leadership confirms the unchanged course towards the rapprochement with NATO and the EU.