Pentagon set on mission to rebuild Georgian military

The Pentagon said Tuesday it was sending a team to Georgia this week to assess needs for rebuilding its military, emphasizing that Tbilisi must be capable of deterring any new Russian attack.

"The Department of Defense is sending an assessment team to Tbilisi later this week to help us begin to consider carefully Georgia's legitimate needs and our response," said Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman.

"After assessments of these needs, we will review how the United States will be able to support the reconstruction of Georgia's economy, infrastructure, and armed forces," he told a congressional hearing on the Georgia-Russia conflict.

The steps to help Georgia, he said, would be "sequenced" and would show US support for its security, independence, and territorial integrity.

"Georgia, like any sovereign country, should have the ability to defend itself and to deter renewed aggression," he said.

To suggestions by a senator that Georgia be given anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons in a bid to at least "delay" further Russian movement into its neighbor, Edelman said there could be "some understanding with Georgia about what capabilities it thinks it needs.

"There should not be any question whether Georgia is entitled to military assistance from NATO or any allies."

Russia on Tuesday submitted a draft resolution in the UN Security Council demanding an arms embargo, saying "some countries" wanted to start re-arming Georgia and were allocating "large sums of money" for that purpose.

Washington has been providing largely humanitarian aid to Georgia after Russia's military surged into the pro-Western nation on August 8 to rebuff a Georgian offensive to regain control of South Ossetia from Moscow-backed separatists.

Moscow then went on to recognize the two breakaway regions as independent states.

US efforts to help Georgia will not be undertaken by Washington alone, Edelman said, citing parallel moves by NATO.

"NATO has also decided to assist Georgia in assessing the damage caused by Russian military action, including to the Georgian armed forces, and to help restore critical services necessary for normal public life and economic activity," he said.

NATO has sent an advisory support team to Georgia as well as its special envoy for the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the North Atlantic Council permanent representatives are also planning visits.

"We must not, and will not, allow Russia's aggression to succeed in Georgia," Edelman said.

"Nor must we miss an opportunity to link arms in solidarity with our partners and friends in the region in the face of aggression," he added.

Last week, the United States rolled out a one billion dollars in additional economic assistance to Georgia to help it weather immediate needs caused by the current turmoil.

[Source: AFP, Google, Washington, 08Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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