The Pentagon is sending a team to Georgia to assess the state of its military in the wake of last month’s brief war with Russia, a move likely to exacerbate tensions with Russia even further. Though the team is only authorized to determine Georgia’s military requirements, it is seen as the first step toward a likely US role in reconstructing the Caucasus nation’s military. A NATO delegation is also scheduled to visit Georgia next week, a move which Russian diplomats described as “inappropriate”.
Russia opposes the rearmament of Georgia in light of its August offensive against South Ossetia. They have proposed an arms embargo against Georgia to the United Nations Security Council, and today Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the embargo would be at the top of Russia’s agenda at October’s Geneva peace talks. After being so quickly overrun by the Russian military, Georgia is reportedly eying a much larger military with the anticipation of a future armed conflict with Russia.
And while Russia is perplexed by the level of western criticism they have faced for their part in the conflict, President Dmitry Medvedev once again defended the move, and insisted that his country’s response would have been the same even if Georgia had been further along the track to NATO membership. He also said it occurred to him shortly after Georgia began its offensive that the moment was “for us almost what 9/11 was for the United States”.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has promised to reclaim the breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose independence was guaranteed by Russia in the wake of the conflict. But President Saakashvili faces increasing discontent in his own country. Long-time Saakashvili ally and former acting President Nino Burjanadze, who broke with the President earlier this year over his anti-opposition crackdown last November, called for a formal probe into the government’s actions in last months war. Earlier in the week, Georgia’s opposition called for the ouster of Saakashvili over his “criminal and irresponsible” shelling of Tskhinvali, which precipitated the conflict.