U.S. Proposes Boost In Military Aid For Georgia
The United States is preparing a military aid package of about $35 million to help Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine defend themselves against Russia.
The money would be part of a much larger, $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative that the White House announced about two months ago. Part of the plan, as announced originally, would be to: "Build the partner capacity of close friends such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine so they can better work alongside the United States and NATO, as well as provide for their own defense."
At a recent Congressional hearing on the Initiative and other Pentagon funding programs, U.S. officials gave a little more detail about how that $1 billion would be apportioned. And they revealed that the largest amount of money would go to bolstering the presence of U.S. troops in Eastern Europe. From the testimony (pdf) of Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work:
Approximately $440 million will go to increase the U.S. military presence in Europe by:
• Enabling rotation of elements of an Army armored brigade combat team into Europe;
• Providing additional funds for expanded naval deployments in the Black and Baltic Seas;
• Augmenting NATO’s Air Policing mission; and
• Either temporarily delaying withdrawal of Air Force F-15C aircraft from Europe or increasing aircraft rotations to Europe.
And most of the rest would go to NATO allies in Eastern Europe:
In addition, ERI will provide about $75 million for more extensive bilateral and multilateral exercises and training with allies and partners, $250 million for improvements to infrastructure that will boost responsiveness, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, and $125 million for enhanced prepositioning of U.S. equipment in Europe. DoD would also use roughly $35 million to help build partner capacity in some of the newer NATO allies and with non- NATO partners such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Providing these countries with the capability and capacity to defend themselves and to enable their participation as full operational partners with NATO is an important complement to other U.S. lines of effort. Boosting the defense capabilities of our partners will also strengthen deterrence against aggressive actions by Russia or from other sources.
It's not clear how that $35 million would be divided between those three countries, but it wouldn't necessarily be a big boost for Georgia, which has been for the last several years been getting more than $100 million in U.S. military aid per year to prepare its troops for the war in Afghanistan.
Separately, a bill has been introduced in Congress that would provide "major non-NATO ally status" for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. That would mean, among other things, a streamlined procedure for more military aid.
Anyway, this is on top of several other recent boosts in military cooperation between the U.S. and Georgia and other Western ex-Soviet states: the U.S. has suggested a much larger role for Georgia in military transit; NATO has raised expectations about increased cooperation with Georgia (and recently reiterated that promise); and the U.S. and NATO have both substantially stepped up their naval presence in the Black Sea. All this suggests that as the U.S. draws down in Afghanistan and consequently is reducing its military presence in Central Asia, the focus of U.S. military efforts in Eurasia is shifting westward, and Georgia has again become the country to watch.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.