Georgia cuts its armed forces
Retired soldiers and civil servants are rallying near the Georgian Defense Ministry building for several days. They were dismissed by the decision of Defense Minister Levan Izoria. On different days the number of protesters ranges from a few dozen to a few hundred people, but they are still active, showing determination to defend their rights. On Monday, their speakers have threatened to block central highways of the capital. These statements were immediately spread by the opposition media, which made already difficult political situation in the country even more complex - on the background of continuing devaluation of country's currency, rising prices and unemployment level.
On the other hand, many observers believe that this crisis is the main cause of cuts in the army and the Ministry of Defense (at least 2200 people were dismissed). Levan Izoria told independent military-analytical magazine "Arsenal" that almost two thirds of Ministry's budget are spent on salaries and social programs for both contract soldiers and civil servants. The Ministry decided to "tighten its belts" in order to allocate more funds to resolve more important problems - training and military maneuvers. But these arguments didn't convince everyone. Mikheil Saakashvili's party "United National Movement" (UNM) has accused the government of Giorgi Kvirikashvili in "cutting country's armed forces." One of the leaders of the UNM, Nugzar Tsiklauri, said that there are plans to dismiss 10000 contract soldiers and officers from the army in February. Considering the fact that, according to official data, Georgian army consists of 30 000 people, it will be cut by 1/3.
Authorities deny these accusation, but not very actively and convincingly. As of today they have officially recognized the dismissal of 2200 civil servants and soldiers, but it's also acknowledged that officers who agree to resign from the army at their own request will receive compensation from 3 to 12 thousand dollars, depending on their rank, position and so on. It's a huge sum by Georgian standards - after all, many people have decided to sign the contract with the army to have a stable income, get a bank loan and build a house, or help relatives to start a small business.
In addition, the information that first and fifth military brigades are now merged was also unexpectedly confirmed. If we are not talking about the cut of personnel, it may seem like the Defense Ministry has decided to strenghten the army's core, which is highly unlikely considering Georgia's obligations to reach NATO standards. So we can definitely see the trend towards armed forces' cut. We can only argue about the scale. There's also no doubt in the main motive - saving money in the time of crisis. However, as columnist of Georgian news agency GHN, David Avalishvili, noted in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza, "if it weren't for the changes in overall policy of the country, economic motives wouldn't have resulted in this cut. The government would rather cut other costs, but not military costs."
According to Avalishvili, this trend indicates that current Georgian authorities are pursuing solely peaceful resolution of territorial conflicts. "It's not necessary to keep a large army in order to answer terrorist or local challenges - several very well-equipped and trained mobile units, which consist several thousand well-trained soldiers, are enough."