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Saakashvili stakes on army2010-03-18 17:05
Despite the global financial crisis and a tricky social and economic situation, military budgets in Georgia and other post-Soviet states keep growing. As some Russian newspapers report, Tbilisi's arms expenditure stands at nearly 5% of GDP. Why does Saakashvili regime need to spend so much?
It has long been known that the military component is among priorities for the current Georgian authorities. Georgian army had been preparing well for the August 2008 operation buying arms from Israel and Ukraine and getting trained by US instructors.
It didn't work though. Till last minute did Georgian strategists save their modernized T-72-SIM-1 tanks that underwent complete modernization including installation of a satellite GPS system, thermal imager and "friend-foe" recognition system. Fire centers supposed to coordinate air blows as a support to infantry and tanks poorly interacted with other units of the Georgian army.
Flunking the operation Georgian authorities decided to increase arms expenses with Tbilisi's Western partners backing the initiative. In November Alexander Shlyakhturov, Head of Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of Russian General Staff stated Georgia kept receiving weaponry and military equipment from NATO member states, Israel and Ukraine. "The alliance member states and most importantly members from Eastern Europe as well as partners supply Georgia with mainly small arms and ammunition. The USA do the training of the Georgian army in accordance with NATO tactics, while Israel ships pilotless aircrafts and Ukraine sells heavy arms like tanks and anti-missile systems", - Shlyakhturov added.
The words of GRU chief are reinforced by the data promulgated earlier. According to Valery Konovalyuk in charge of Verkhovnaya Rada commission investigating legality of Ukraine-Georgia military cooperation, over recent years Kiev has supplied Tbilisi with arms for the amount of USD 2.5 bln: 60 armored vehicles, 40 tanks, 14 rocket launching complexes as well as other weaponry called off duty in Ukrainian units. "Today Ukraine is the main supplier of arms to Georgia. - Konovalyuk told. - Shipments to Georgia continue due to rearming of the Ukrainian army when practically new equipment is taken off duty and sold for nothing".
As for Israel, not long ago Russian special services exposed Ropadia LTD's plans to ship a large lot of small arms to Tbilisi: 50,000 AKS-74 machine guns, nearly 1,000 RPG-7 grenade launchers and nearly 20,000 grenades to them, as well as nearly 15,000 5.56 mm assault rifles not to mention Israel's pilotless drones Tbilisi keeps buying still.