Army beyond means to Saakashvili08.10.2010 | 13:07
It looks like the financial crisis has been a heavy blow to Georgian economy judging by the 2011 state budget draft with a 50 mln cut on Sakartvelo's military spending compared to last year. But until now no expense was ever spared on the army and Saakashvili was always ready to show off Georgian Rambos equipped with state-of-the-art arms.
Georgian military budget has been paraboidal for the past five years. In 2005 the army spending was nearly USD 80 mln, a year after this figure rose twofold. Scenting trouble the EU's commission for external relations came into play demanding that Sakartvelo stop building up the military budget since the country needed support in health care, social sphere, small and medium business more.
However, Mishiko continued playing soldiers. In 2007 the country's defense sphere grew even richer with the budget amounting to USD 700 mln! As it turned out, it was not the last figure. In 2008, the year of the attack on South Ossetia, almost USD 1 bn was infused in the army. Still, even having lost the war Saakashvili went on with weaponization. Not so ardently though: over 12 months that followed, military costs shrunk by a third. Last year the army received USD 412 mln. Now the amount of USD 366 mln is discussed to support the Defense Ministry. Thus, military budget's curve is going down in Georgia.
GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed reduction in the republic's military spending and possible aid from the USA with Russian experts.
Konstantin Sivkov, Academy for geopolitical problems first vice president: I believe that reduction in Georgia's military expenditure is part of the trend. Last year the United States claimed global domination relying on their own strength and NATO power, now it turns out they can't handle it. They fail to overcome the crisis without establishing military and political control over resources. That is why they try to engage other states in this. Russia, in first place. In these conditions dragging the RF into the war in the Caucasian region contradicts US interests. They have more important issues to solve.
Naturally, rearming Georgia and creating conditions for conflict with Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a problem too now. I think this is one of the geopolitical factors. The second factor is that the Georgian economy has its limits too. Further increase in military spending can lead to an economic chaos inside the country and Saakashvili must do something to prevent it in the run-up to the coming election. There is the third factor, finally: the Georgian army's fighting strength reached the limit that is fraught with inability, if exceeded. Thus, Georgia is simply unable to afford an army like this and has to reduce outlay for purchase of weapons and military equipment. Apparently, all that had to be purchased is already bought. Still, that does not mean that president Saakashvili and his gang have become more peaceful.
Alexander Khramchikhin, Institute for Political and Military analysis deputy director: Defense spending cut is connected with Georgia's economic problems. Indeed, there are no other reasons why military budgets are reduced. I don't think the United States will interfere to sponsor the Georgian army. In fact, nobody has ever sponsored the republic's military reforms. Total contribution of Western countries to the military effort is no more than 3 per cent.
Ruslan Kharabua, expert at Caucasus department of the Institute for CIS Countries: it seems the Georgian side is pessimistic about solving territorial integrity issues in a military way. I think the decision is postponed until better times. Besides, the economic crisis that has not ended is a serious trouble for the republic. Spending budgetary funds on military needs is not of immediate interest to Georgian leaders. Social issues are more urgent. In my view, the USA will continue assisting Georgia, but to a smaller extent. They realize that the military support to the republic is unpromising now.
Well, looking at Georgia's miserable budget for the next year (USD 4 billion), Saakashvili will not have the heart to suggest large-scale army reforms. As the saying goes beggars can't be choosers.