Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Georgian president vows to build strong, modern army

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has pledged to build new and stronger armed forces in the light of the recent military conflict with Russia.

Georgia's military suffered a major defeat in a five-day war with Russia in August last year after attempting to regain its breakaway region of South Ossetia. Georgia reportedly lost up to 3,000 servicemen and police in the conflict although Tbilisi confirmed only about 70 deaths.

"This time we are going to build modern, significantly higher quality, significantly stronger armed forces, and no one should have any illusions about that," Saakashvili told reporters late on Monday after a meeting with Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Georgia signed in January a strategic partnership treaty with the United States, which has long provided economic and military support for Tbilisi, including training its troops.

Saakashvili said that previous U.S. training programs were limited to training peacekeepers, rather than prepared the Georgian military for full-scale military operations, and expressed hope that Washington would provide stronger support to Tbilisi in developing its military.
"After signing the treaty Georgia and the U.S. have entered a new stage of military and political cooperation," he said.

Georgia lost control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in bloody post-Soviet conflicts in the early 1990s. The two republics, bolstered by Russian peacekeepers, have had de facto independence since then, and have been a bone of contention between Georgia and Russia.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states on August 26, two weeks after the war with Georgia, triggered by Tbilisi's attack on South Ossetia.


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