WASHINGTON, December 17 (Itar-Tass) —— The U.S. Congress has voted for the establishment of closer military relations with Georgia, involving the sale of U.S. arms to Tbilisi. The relevant provision is included in the Pentagon budget bill for the 2012 fiscal year, approved by the Senate on Thursday night. Previously it had been approved by the House of Representatives. The document has been sent for signature to President Barack Obama.
As it is stated in Article 1244 of the bill, no later than 90 days after the signing the president should develop and submit to Congress a plan for the normalization of military cooperation between the U.S. and Georgia, including the sale of defensive weapons.
According to the lawmakers, among the tasks the implementation of that plan should aim at is support for the Georgian government in protecting its people and the sovereign territory with regard to the obligations not to use force, made by the government of Georgia, and in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter; arrangements for the United States’ sales of military equipment and property, as well as provision of military services to support the efforts of the government of Georgia for ensuring self-defense.
In addition, the members of the US Congress would like the Obama Administration to persuade other NATO members and countries seeking accession to the alliance to restore and increase the sales of military equipment and property and the provision of military services to Georgia as part of broader efforts to deepen NATO military relations and cooperation with Georgia.
The required plan must contain an assessment of Georgia's defense requirements, which the Pentagon will be required to prepare, as well as the a list of all requests from the Georgian government for purchases of military equipment and property and the provision of military services over the past two years.
In the Senate this provision was included in the bill by Republican Senator John McCain, who has repeatedly stated publicly that Georgia needs U.S. weapons to defend itself. In the lower house of Congress he was actively supported, in particular, by Republican Michael Turner, who kept wondering why shouldn’t defensive weapons be sold to a country whose soldiers are fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Americans in Afghanistan.
U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Alexander Vershbow, speaking in Congress one year after the August 2008 conflict in South Ossetia, said that Washington was not engaged in the rearmament of Georgia. According to him, the Pentagon was helping Tbilisi to move towards the creation of modern, western-oriented forces interoperable with NATO. For example, it trains and equips units that are involved in the war in Afghanistan.
On the eve of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s visit to Washington in January this year there were a number of media reports to the effect the Obama Administration was ready again to begin deliveries of arms, including antiaircraft and antitank systems, to Georgia through third countries. But the Pentagon spokesperson Wendy Snyder denied these reports, stating that they were completely untrue.