United States start military drills in Georgia
The war games called Exercise Noble Partner 2016 begin at Georgia’s Vaziani Air Base near Tbilisi. The drills are aimed at enhancing US and Georgian soldiers interoperability.
"After speaches of officials, demonstration exercises were held - landing from military aircraft and the attack on targets. The ceremony ended with a parade of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles," the Georgian Defense Ministry reported.
The exercise bring together 500 Georgian and 650 US service members as well as 150 UK military personnel. They feature a full range of equipment, from US Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry vehicles to M119 howitzers and Georgia’s T-72 tanks and BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles.
Last year, Noble Partner-2015 exercises were also held at the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi, bringing together 500 Georgian and 200 US service members.
Describing the drills as the largest ever joint military exercises held in Georgia, Defense Minister, Tina Khidasheli, said that upon completion of these exercises “Georgia will for the first time have a certified NATO Response Force member military unit."
In an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza, the head of the Management Strategy Institute Peter Mamradze stressed that Noble Partner does not mean that Georgia is getting closer to NATO. "Western partners often talk about this in private confidential conversations and publicly. Recently, at the Aspen Institute, the US Ambassador to NATO said that NATO won't accept Georgia in a foreseeable future. There were other statements. So it won't happen," the expert noted.
"For Georgia, these exercises are a demonstration of the fact that the republic aims to be a worthy member of the European community, and for Europe - of the fact that the West does not forget Georgia in the position, in which it is after the military-political adventure of Saakashvili. In this context, considering the fact that the qualification of Georgian soldiers will increase after these exercises, without a doubt, Noble Partner is useful for us," Peter Mamradze informed.
TASS military columnist, a retired colonel Viktor Litovkin pointed out that although these exercises are not considered by Russia as a threat, they certainly are an irritating factor. "Georgia is an aggressor towards our troops, it attacked our peacekeepers in 2008, and the role of the US in pushing Georgia towards this aggression can be seen. The attempt to drag Georgia into NATO, the manipulation of this issue - all of this suggests that through Georgia, the United States and the Alliance are trying to cause bouts of anger or bad mood in Russia," he said.
Nevertheless, Russia watches over these exercises calmly, but closely. "We practically won't react to them, we will only increase alertness, because the exercises are held not far from those places, where Georgia violated the sovereignty of the Republic of South Ossetia, attacked our peacekeepers and killed civilians of South Ossetia," he expressed confidence.