Georgian President Under Fire For Unwelcoming U.S. Military Base To The South Caucasus

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 2 May 2019
Georgian President Under Fire For Unwelcoming U.S. Military Base To The South Caucasus

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has called inappropriate the construction of an American military base in her country. Georgia should in every way deepen relations with the United States, but to avoid actions that may be misunderstood, she said in an interview.

I would not recommend it. There is no need to take steps that can be perceived as a provocation. In addition, I do not think that the United States is ready to have a military base that will attract the attention not only of Russia, but also of terrorist movements that are very active in our region, Zourabichvili opined.

Salome Zourabichvili, who was elected President of Georgia in November 2018, constantly emphasizes that her goal as a politician is to protect the freedom and independence of the country. The president is well aware of the fact that the opening of an American military base in Georgia can further deteriorate the relations of her country with Russia, and therefore she considers it inappropriate to cross the red line.

In 2009, Georgia and the United States issued a Charter on Strategic Partnership. Since then, the Georgia-NATO Joint Training and Evaluation Center, the School of Institutional Renaissance of Defense, have been opened in Georgia. And in 2018, in the village of Vaziani, the Combat Training Center began to operate, intended for the retraining of Georgian military personnel in line with NATO standards.

In response to Zourabichvili’s statements, the opposition threatened her with an impeachment in connection with a proposal to postpone the construction of an American military base.

"I am convinced day by day that this woman (Zourabichvili) will surely end her term with an impeachment. However, now it’s important that, before the impeachment, she doesn’t make irreparable damage to the country with such statements," the opposition MP from the United National Movement, Tinatin Bokuchava, said.

Earlier, the USA allocated funds for the construction of a combat training center, where NATO instructors are expected to train Georgian colleagues. The US military in Georgia enjoy more opportunities than in any NATO member countries. However, Georgia has not yet been accepted into the alliance, and the Pentagon is refraining from deploying a large contingent in the country. After the beginning of the process of withdrawing the Russian military bases from Georgia, the United States began to vigorously increase its presence in the region.

Already in May 2002, Washington launched a program worth $64 million for arming and training the Georgian military. The agreement on defense cooperation, approved by the Georgian parliament, gives the Pentagon a number of privileges. In particular, the U.S. military can be in the country on the passport and visa-free bases and are free to carry weapons.

The U.S. military has full diplomatic immunity, and contracts for the supply of equipment or construction work are made in accordance with the U.S. laws. But the most important thing - the transfer of any military equipment to Georgia is carried out at the first request of the American command. The Georgian authorities cannot control the movement of the U.S. military in their own country. Hypothetically, these norms allow the Pentagon to deploy any contingent in Georgia.

For comparison: the movement of military equipment of NATO across the national borders of European countries - members of NATO - is often associated with considerable bureaucratic delays, trains with military equipment are forced to stand at customs for a long time, waiting for permission to move on. Back in 2006, experts noted the interest of NATO in the use of air force base in Georgian settlements of Vaziani and Marneuli.

Although the United States is expanding vigorously in Georgia, in fact, it has a more demonstrative value. Of course, if the Americans deploy a full-fledged military base in Georgia, they will get very serious opportunities in the region, for example, to escalate the situation. If in the White House, they decide once to blow up the situation, then the airfield in Vaziani can play a very serious role. But everything depends on the military-political will and peculiarities of the region.

In 2008, NATO already had a Marneuli airbase in Georgia, but this did not give an advantage to Washington. Therefore, if the Vaziani airfield is built, this step will pursue more provocative goals. Along the perimeter of the Russian border, pressure has long been heightened. NATO’s plans to modernize the airfield network in Europe are part of the same chain. Now we are also talking about the modernization of a large military airfield in Romania, not to mention the activities in the Baltic States and Poland.

From this point of view, Zourabichvili is right, but one should not forget that she is the president without powers and at any moment the pro-Western forces of Georgia will be able to shift her. So if Washington decides to create a base in Georgia, then no one will exactly ask Zourabichvili’s opinion.

Interestingly, Salome Zourabichvili has recently come under fire for her gross blunder with regard to the disputed border segment between Azerbaijan and Georgia. Touring the Kesikci Dag historical monastery (also referred to as Davit Gareja monastic complex), she called for the speedy resolution of the issue and demarcation of the borders in this section. However, this was done in an obvious and impudent way that as if Azerbaijan was to compromise the monument to which Georgians claim the full right.

The latest in a series of blunders made by the Georgian president without portfolio was her retweet of an insulting tweet by US President Donald Trump concerning Joe Biden. Her official Twitter page shared Trump's tweet in which Trump called Biden "sleepy" as Biden held his first presidential campaign rally.

The president's spin doctors rushed to rectify the mistake, attributing it an error of her social media manager. The social media manager was made a scapegoat for her though the official explanation was questioned by media outlets.