Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze told the country on radio yesterday that the U.S. Sixth Fleet flagship’s arrival in Poti is “a normal development for an independent country” and must not be viewed through a cold-war prism. The remark appeared intended to preempt possible Russian expressions of displeasure. The LaSalle’s port call is the first major U.S. naval visit to Georgia. It follows the Georgian border troops takeover of control over the coastline and the eviction of the last Russian unit from Poti (see the Monitor, September 9). The Georgian coastal guard and land troops begin a military exercise in Poti today (Radio Tbilisi, September 14; Prime-News, Russian agencies, September 11 and 14).
The U.S. flagship, with Vice-Admiral Daniel Murphy on board, paid a precedent-setting visit to Sevastopol at Ukraine’s invitation last week (see the Monitor, September 4). These port calls underscore the shrinking of Russia’s military presence and the growing Western profile in the Black Sea-South Caucasus region.
JAPAN BOOSTS ECONOMIC PRESENCE IN KAZAKHSTAN.