WASHINGTON, September 16 (Itar-Tass) — Unsettled relations with Russia hamper Georgia’s military cooperation with the United States, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European and North Atlantic Integration Georgy Baramidze told Itar-Tass on Friday.
“It is a secret to no one that the United States wants to avoid unnecessary tensions in relations with Russia and it impact, to a certain extent, our military cooperation with Americans,” he said, not specifying however whether he meant the U.S, refusal to sell its arms to Georgia or anything else.
According to U.S. media reports, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili asked the U.S. leaders to sell state-of-the-art missile defence complexes and anti-tank weapons. It looks like his requests were not met judging by the fact that certain U.S. lawmakers from time to time voice criticism of the Obama administration over its decision not to sell heavy armaments to Georgia.
Meanwhile, according to the Georgian deputy prime minister, “in general, it does not impede such big projects as training of our soldiers, neither it hinders our cooperation in Afghanistan or issues we are promoting within NATO.”
Georgia “is open for cooperation with the United States” in what concerns efforts to build a European missile defence shield, Baramidze stressed. A number of U.S. Congressmen once keenly advocated Georgia’s involvement in the project. “If the United States is interested in cooperation with Georgia in the area of missile defence, naturally, we will take this issue seriously,” Baramidze said. “However no proposals have come from the United States as of yet.”
In the Georgian government, Baramidze is responsible for Euro-Atlantic integration and often has meeting with U.S. officials to discuss his country’s NATO peospects. “Two or three years will be enough for us to get ready for NATO membership,” he said. “Further developments will depend on NATO itself, which will has to take a political decision to invite Tbilisi into its ranks.”
Baramidze also said his Washington program features meetings at the United States National Security Council, the Department of State, and at the Department of Defence, where he will meet with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defence Alexander Vershbow.