NATO Takes Count in Georgia

A group of NATO experts has arrived in Tbilisi. Kommersant has learned that they will evaluate the losses to the Georgian military infrastructure in its recent conflict with Russia. The alliance is taking inventory before providing Georgia with aid. A decision on the volume and nature of that aid will be made at the visiting session of the NATO council that will be held in Tbilisi next week.

The NATO group’s activities are not being publicized in Georgia. The Georgian Defense Ministry has not released any information on the topic. Kommersant received confirmation from the ministry only that alliance specialists were in the country. “A group of NATO experts are in Georgia to assess losses suffered by the country’s military infrastructure in the conflict,” a ministry spokesman said. “That visit and the negotiations are not for the press.”

Nonetheless, a source in the Georgian Defense Ministry told Kommersant that “The group of experts is not authorized to make any decision in relation aid in restoring the military infrastructure of Georgia.” The source explained that “It is working only on collecting information to be delivered to Brussels. But it can already be said that NATO is providing Georgia with aid to restore its air traffic control system.” That is the radar that was partially destroyed by bombing. Earlier, NATO stated its willingness to include Georgia in its unified air traffic data exchange system.

Kommersant has learned that the NATO experts will also look at military bases in the east and west of the country that were partially or wholly destroyed by bombing and the Russians partially took away the weaponry. “The Russians really did take a lot of weapons away from the Senaki and Gori military bases,” military expert Murman Kuprashvili told Kommersant. “But it was mainly nonfunctional military equipment or equipment that was not used in the operation in South Ossetia.” In particular, the Georgian army lost several thousand machineguns stored at the bases that they were unable to distribute to reservists. A considerable number of heavy armored vehicles were also lost.

“Now we are working with American and other colleagues on an estimate of the damage,” Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia told Kommersant. “Georgia will certainly be provided with material aid for the restoration of its defense capability in full measure.” He added, It is a matter of the restoration of the infrastructure and air defense s of the country and other forms of military-technical aid. Aid in restoring the airports in Marneuli, Senaki, Kopitnari and Vaziani is very important.” Kutelia provided no other specifics. It is known, however, that American senators who visited Tbilisi last week openly stated their plans to provide Georgia antitank weapons and ballistic systems.

The final decision on aid to Georgia from the alliance will be made later. It is expected to be made public during the visiting session of the NATO council in Tbilisi September 15-16. “In spite of the tense situation, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer assured us in the name of all member states that a visiting session of the NATO council will be held in Tbilisi on the level of ambassadors with the secretary general taking part, as promised a year ago,” a Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Kommersant. Continuing cooperation between Georgia and NATO within the “Intensive Partnership” program agreed on at the Bucharest summit will be discussed at the visiting session. In addition, Kommersant has learned, the council will issue a statement on the recent conflict and express its support for Georgian territorial integrity and the withdrawal of Russian troops.

[Source: Kommersant, Tbilisi, 10Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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