US Military Delegation Visits Georgia

US General John Craddock arrived in Tbilisi this week promising to rebuild the country's armed forces, which were largely trained by the United States before being pulverized by Russia’s military in response to Georgia’s move into South Ossetia.

General John Craddock, the top US and NATO military commander, told newsmen in Tbilisi that Washington will have to help Georgians “rebuild because they are a partner in the war on terror”.

Georgia is seeking NATO membership and had been the third-largest contributor of troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq – until its 2,000 soldiers were hastily flown home, too late to join the brief conflict, which left the Georgian military almost completely devastated by the overwhelming Russian military response.

Speaking after a meeting with Gen. Craddock in Tbilisi, the Georgian ruler said he was intent on rebuilding his army with assistance from the United States. “We need to make them stronger,” Saakashvili said of his forces. “We need to have this country defended. And we need new people trained. We need new equipment. And we will work very closely with the United States to get all of this”.

The US general’s visit to Georgia comes apparently in full awareness that any renewed American military aid to the Georgians would surely rattle Moscow. Previously, the United States had trained Georgian troops for tours in Iraq and under a NATO partnership program.

In one of his evening briefings in Moscow, the deputy head of the Russian general staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, took a swipe at the American military support for the Georgian regime while he was answering a question of what Russia would do with several Humvees bearing US Marine Corps markings that were captured as they tried to approach a Russian military checkpoint in Georgia this week. The vehicles, according to American official explanations, had been in Georgia for a military exercise this summer, allegedly awaiting shipment back to the United States when the conflict broke out. But for some reason, at the height of the conflict, they were manned by armed Georgian soldiers. “I don’t know what the fate of these Humvees will be,” Nogovitsyn said, “it is not our priority right now to give back vehicles to the US,” he added.

Meanwhile, the United States Navy said this week that it was sending a guided missile destroyer from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea, the first of three warships scheduled to deliver aid to Georgia in the next three weeks. Sending the warship into the Black Sea, albeit on a stated humanitarian mission, would mark the first projection of armed US military power into the region since the start of the conflict between Russia and Georgia two weeks ago on August 7.

[Source: By Yuri Reshetnikov, The Voice of Russia, Moscow, 22Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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