Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 14

From June 16 to June 21, Georgia hosted for the first time a joint exercise with troops of a NATO country. Some sixty U.S. Army medical personnel and 100 Georgian counterparts practiced battlefield medical treatment at a Georgian military base. The U.S.-financed exercise was designed to practice field surgery for a Georgian battalion which had been subjected to air attacks by a hypothetical enemy intruding into Georgia’s airspace. Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze termed the exercise “a big step forward for Georgia.” Next year, the country is scheduled to host for the first time a joint combat exercise with troops of NATO countries.

On June 22, Tevzadze signed with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Edward Warner in Tbilisi a military cooperation agreement for 2000. The agreement apparently ushers in a new stage in American military assistance to Georgia. Having until now focused on border troops and the coastal guard, the assistance programs will now concentrate on Georgia’s air defense and on the reform of ground forces. Warner was cited as stating in Tbilisi that the assistance can bring Georgian troops close to NATO standards within five years, provided that Georgia’s economic situation makes possible an adequate defense budget.

On Warner’s heels, General Hussein Kivrikoglu, head of the General Staff of Turkey’s armed forces, headed a military delegation to Tbilisi. The Turks brought along a donation of US$1.4 million worth of military equipment, raising to US$10 million the value of their recent donations to Georgia. In mid-June, a 14-strong group of military experts from NATO countries arrived in Tbilisi to work out recommendations for upgrading Georgian emergency and rescue units and to assess those units’ equipment needs.