(Eurasianet) The United States is stepping up its military aid to Georgia as Washington searches for new ways to encourage Georgians to continue on their pro-Western path in spite of ever-receding hopes of joining NATO.
Starting next spring, US Army officers will train Georgian soldiers on defensive tactics. The new initiative, to be called the Georgia Defense Readiness Program, differs from previous American military aid programs in that it aims not to prepare Georgian troops for participation in foreign missions, in particular the coalition operation in Afghanistan, but to defend their own territory against a potential invasion. […]
In light of NATO's apparent reluctance to accept Georgia, increased US training is “a face-saving measure,” said Kornely Kakachia, director of the Georgian Institute of Politics.
That strategy shift began during the last months of the Obama presidency, but it has gathered momentum under the Trump administration. In July 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry visited Tbilisi and signed a new military cooperation agreement with an increased emphasis on territorial defense and training for combat, rather than peacekeeping.
The new administration is pressing ahead with that approach, the senior American official said. “The previous administration was very skeptical of the Georgian government and very afraid of provoking Russia,” the official said. “I have to say that, in terms of actual delivery of support, it's been better under this administration.”
Many observers attribute the closer embrace of Georgia to Trump's hawkish advisers, especially Mattis but also National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker. “Mattis has more contact with Georgia, he knows post-Soviet politics, he knows Russia,” Kakachia said. “When he became head of the Pentagon, it became clear that Georgia was safe.” […]
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