Did Tbilisi try to fight Iskander rockets with the help of France?
Georgiy Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi. Exclusively for VK
Former Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, dismissed from his post by decree of the Prime Minister in the fall of last year, has accused the government of Irakli Garibashvili of disrupting a major contract to supply the country with the newest missile and air defense systems, including missiles capable of intercepting the latest Russian Iskander missile complex. Official Paris confirms that in this respect there were discussions with the Georgian side, but denies the existence of a legally binding treaty. Georgian experts doubt the willingness of France to export the latest weapons to Georgia and call the current events a political intrigue of the ex-defense minister.
A "Memorandum of Understanding" on supply of new anti-missile systems and air defense systems was signed by the former Minister of Defence of Georgia Irakli Alasania and leading French weapons concerns on October 28 last year. Alasania says that a few hours before the document was due to come into force he was called by the Secretary of State Security Mindia Janelidze and was given an order by the head of the government not to sign the memorandum. The Defense Minister ignored the requirement of the prime minister and put the document up to be signed. "I can already tell you the details of what happened, since March 31 has expired, when Georgia and France were to issue a legally binding treaty on arms," Alasania said at a special briefing. According to him, a memorandum of understanding was signed for the supply of new Georgian air and missile defense systems capable of fighting with Russian bombers and ballistic missiles Iskander.
A few hours after the registration of the memorandum in Paris, the Georgian prosecutor's office called for the arrest of five former and current high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Defence on corruption charges. Back in Tbilisi, Alasania was arrested in connection with the attempt by the government to "disrupt a historic contract, able to fully ensure the security of Georgia." Responding to a question about the motives, he pointed to the "fear of Russia."
Alasania and his Free Democrats party colleagues, including Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze and State Minister for European Integration Alexi Petriashvili, resigned in protest in November last year against the "pro-Western course change in the country," which manifested, in their opinion, in the disruption of the military contract with France.
Irakli Garibashvili accused the ex-minister of speculation on sensitive topics, but the current Defense Minister Mindy Dzhenelidze explained his call to Alasania by the necessity for "greater coordination in making important decisions." He called on his predecessor "not to make statements that are harmful to the security of Georgia." At the same time, one of the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition, Zviad Dzidziguri, urged the Free Democrats not to exaggerate themes of buying weapons "in an environment where Russian tanks are 35 kilometers from the capital."
Finally, on Saturday the row was commented on by French Ambassador to Georgia Rene Salens. He stressed that supplying Georgia with air defense and missile defense "was not assured by the agreement," and in this regard "there are only discussions."
The editor-in-chief of the military-analytical magazine Arsenali, Irakli Aladashvili, told Vestnik Kavkaza he is doubtful about the readiness of Paris to deliver weapons to Georgia, despite Moscow's position. Experts doubt the ability of even the most modern Western missile defense systems to shoot down Iskender missiles. In fact, in combat purposes this missile was used only once - on August 12, 2008 when it exploded in the central square of Gori, near South Ossetia.
Former head of the State Chancellery Petre Mamradze said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza that Alasania, even when he was a minister "often made provocative statements about the readiness of NATO to provide military assistance to Georgia." "In fact, no one was going to help Georgia in the fight against Russia," Mr. Mamradze assured.