NATO and Georgia launched their NATO-Georgia Exercise 2019 at the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC) near Tbilisi on March 18. The training involved more than 350 soldiers from 24 NATO members and partner countries. This year’s iteration is a Command Post Exercise designed to train Georgian headquarters staff to undertake military responses to humanitarian crises. According to NATO publications, it will also work to improve “interoperability between NATO and Georgia and educate the Georgian Armed Forces about NATO standards for collective training and exercise.” The NATO-Georgia Exercise was first held in 2016 as part of the new Substantial NATOGeorgia Package. The Package is a set of initiatives “aimed at strengthening Georgia’s defense capabilities and developing closer security cooperation and interoperability with NATO Members.” It provides support across several areas including acquisition, strategic operational planning, special operations forces, military police, cyber defense, maritime security, strategic communications, logistic capability, intelligence, and aviation and air defense. It also helped create the Defense Institution Building School, and the JTEC that housed this year’s exercise. NATO-Georgia 2019 is the second NATO-Georgia Exercise and is substantially larger than its predecessor. The 2019 version includes participants from thirteen countries new to the drills, including Albania, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Sweden. Azerbaijan’s presence is especially noteworthy since it is one of four states wedged between NATO and the Collective Security Treaty Organization without belonging to either. The GUAM states—named for the first letter of each member, Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova—all have separatist regions operating with support from Moscow. Russia stands strongly opposed to cooperation between any of the four and NATO, especially Georgia and Ukraine. Thus, the NATO-Georgia Exercises, like all Georgia’s interactions with NATO, exist in Russia’s shadow. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili made sure to mention that Georgia’s NATO cooperation is “not aimed against anyone, neither have they any aggressive purposes," in her annual speech to parliament earlier this month. Georgia’s Deputy Defense Minister Lela Chikovani echoed her comments in speaking on the NATO-Georgia Exercise, saying that it “will strengthen Georgia’s self-defense capabilities. It is no way targeted against any nation.” Russian media published President Zurabishvili’s comments in its reporting on the exercise, but it also made sure to include a former Georgian parliamentary speaker’s opinion that Georgia’s “problems can be solved only through the massive normalization of relations with Russia.” Russian officials refrained from commenting, maintaining a habit of regarding NATO exercises in Eastern Europe with silence NATO, on the other hand, welcomed the cooperation, which it hailed as an “an important exercise for Georgia and a significant milestone in strengthening NATO-Georgia militarypolitical cooperation.” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will visit Georgia during the drills to observe the exercise and meet with Georgian leaders.
CPC - Caspian Policy Center
the 2019 nato-georgia exercise has begun