Georgian servicemen take part in the joint US-Georgian exercise Noble Partner 2015 at the Vaziani training area outside Tbilisi on May 21, 2015. (AFP)
has criticized NATO
’s upcoming joint military exercises in Georgia
, calling them a provocative step to intentionally destabilize the Caucasus region.
“We consider this sustainable ‘reclamation’ of the Georgian territory by the NATO military as a provocative step aimed at deliberate destabilization of the military-political situation in South Caucasus,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday,
“Washington and its allies that are openly appeasing Tbilisi’s revanchist aspirations also contribute to that to a considerable degree,” the statement added.
According to the ministry, the two-week Noble Partner 2016 drills, set to be launched on May 11, have several objectives, including preparing the Georgian army for joining NATO’s quick reaction force, known as the NATO Response Force (NRF), and strengthening Georgia’s potential for territorial self-defense.
On Thursday, a group of eight Abrams tanks and seven Bradley Fighting Vehicles as well as engineering and medical evacuation vehicles and other military hardware were unloaded at Poti Port on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, and are now stationed at the Vaziani Training Area, just outside the capital Tbilisi.
Soldiers of the US mechanized infantry company from the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, stand at attention during an official opening ceremony of the joint US-Georgian exercises Noble Partner 2015 at the Vaziani training ground outside Tbilisi on May 11, 2015. (AFP)
The exercises will include approximately 1,300 service members, including 650 American, 500 Georgian and 150 British personnel, and will consist of field training and live fire exercises.
The so-called Noble Partner exercise, first staged in 2015, and has a declared aim of training service members from the Georgian Armed Forces (GAF) and NATO member states for the NRF unit, and to improve the GAF’s interoperability with NATO soldiers.
The US servicemen take part in the joint US-Georgian exercise Noble Partner 2015 at the Vaziani training area outside Tbilisi, on May 21, 2015. (AFP)
Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008 after Tbilisi launched a major offensive against the independence-seeking republic of South Ossetia in a bid to retake control of the region. Russia, South Ossetia’s main ally, responded to the attack by moving in its military forces and driving out Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Moscow and NATO have been at loggerheads in recent years over what Russia describes as the eastward expansion of the alliance. The Kremlin has beefed up its troops near its borders with Eastern Europe
and in surrounding countries where NATO has stationed troops.