The Pentagon has begun the process today of loading tanks onto ferries in Varna, Bulgaria, to make their way across the Black Sea to Batumi, in the Republic of Georgia, where they will be used in upcoming military exercises, which will involve some 650 US troops and 150 British troops.
This is the second year of the exercise, which appears to be meant to be an annual event, and the first time US combat tanks will be involved. Last year, the US sent Bradley Fighting Vehicles to Georgia for the operation.
The Georgian Defense Ministry announced the deployment would happen back in January, saying at the time that the presence of the tanks would underscore US support for the Georgian Republic against Russia.
Georgia fought a brief, unsuccessful war against Russia in 2008, when they attacked the Russian-allied breakaway Republic of South Ossetia. Russian forces were hit during the Georgian attack, and Russian retaliation destroyed a large chunk of the Georgian military, and led Russia to formally recognize both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.
Though the US has vowed to prevent the international community from ever formally recognizing either state as independent, their de facto autonomy likely ended Georgia’s ambitions to join NATO, as the alliance certainly will not accept a nation with outstanding territorial disputes, given their accession would likely mean an immediate call to war.