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Georgian Military Machine Gaining Momentum

04.10.2007 17:00

Matvey Senin

Georgia is in a rush lately to purchase arms and weaponry, to establish new defense contacts, to upgrade its military control system and to train reservists on a mass basis. President Saakashvili for the second time introduced in the Parliament a bill proposing to increase the state budget by US$ 240 million. 70% of the sum are planned to be channeled to the defense needs. In general, the total defense budget of Georgia will be increased by US$ 190 million that is equal to 22% of the state budget (more than 7% of the expected GDP).

The Georgian defense budget totals about US$ 770 million. Moreover, the Parliament made a decision to increase the strength of the Georgian Armed Forces by 15%. Thus, in the near future, the Georgian Army will have 32,000 officers and enlisted men. The increase of the strength entails the need to provide adequate amount of weapons. And the work is this direction is conducted at a rather high pace.

This summer, Tbilisi and Prague negotiated on shipment of 10 aircraft L-159 to Georgia. Greece supplied to Tbilisi 60 mortars, communication means and 3,000 sets of uniform. Bosnia signed a deal to sell multiple artillery rocket systems of different modifications.

Moreover, so-called "friends of Georgia" (Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Germany, Croatia, Poland, Ukraine, Great Britain and USA) express their readiness to provide for upgrading of the Georgian arsenal up to the NATO standards. And each of the "friends" tries to exploit the situation and bite off a bigger piece of the armament cake "draining" its substandard materiel to the Georgian Army.

Due to unrestrained militarization, currently the Georgian Armed Forces have in their arsenal about 130 tanks, 300 guns, approximately 200 APCs, 60 planes and helicopters and 27 sea vessels of various types. And it?s only the beginning. So much more that all weapon contracts are controlled by Niki Alasania, a cousin of President Saakashvili.

Significant funds are provided from the state budget for development of the defense infrastructure. Training of reservists became one of the priorities of the state. It is planned to train 1000,000 people next year. The reserve duty training system implies all-out training of able-bodied males and even females at their will so far.

The all-out militarization absorbed a significant part of the Georgian budget and bears heavily on the Georgian people. Such burden needs explanation, and the state authorities continue to justify awkwardly the abruptly increased military expenditures by the need to train the army to repel "threats" from Abkhazia, Sothern Ossetia and Russia.

In so doing, the transformation of the state defense system is focused on upgrading the Georgian Armed Forced up to the NATO standards as a basis for future membership in the alliance.

But there is the other side of the coin that is carefully concealed. Taking into account that the items of the defense budget are practically nontransparent for supervisory bodies, it is quite possible that the efforts to boost the defense budget are directly associated with future parliamentary and presidential elections in 2008. It is quite possible that these resources will be pumped to various funds and used for treating the electorate under the pretence of writing them off to the defense expenditures.