US “base response” is unlikely in Georgia04.02.2009 | 13:31
The USA are likely to set up their military bases in Georgia. This action will be a response to Russia's presence in Abkhazia. Tbilisi is puzzled at this information considering this a pure "smoke-without-fire" situation.
The source of the "smoke" was Nezavisimaya Gazeta. With reference to Kavkaz-Press IA it reported on February 3 that according to the high-ranking Georgian sources Tbilisi had started negotiating with Washington on American military bases deployment in the port town of Poti and Marneuli. The latter is 40 minutes away from the capital. The newspaper further informs that Washington is concerned about Russia's intentions to set up military bases in Abkhazia and might issue an "antiplan" as a constraining factor.
The plan provides for American military bases deployment in Georgia. It is allegedly believed in Tbilisi that the USA's rejection of military presence in the Georgian territory is possible on condition Moscow reconsiders its plans in Abkhazia. If the source is to be trusted, this close military cooperation was discussed in late January during the visit of the delegation of the U.S. Ground Forces Command in Europe headed by General Carter Hemi.
Official Tbilisi made the following statement on the subject: the USA bases will not be deployed in the territory of Georgia and at the time of the American military delegation's recent visit to the Georgian capital this issue was not discussed. This is what was referred to Interfax in Georgia's Foreign and Defense Ministries.
However even supposing the secret talks really took place it will hardly be a delight to both American and Georgian society. Especially considering that at the execution of the Strategic Partnership Charter both American and Georgian high ranking officials assured: there will be no American military bases in Georgia.
Shortly before that Richard Lugar, a Republican senator, had a discussion with Russian journalists certifying that the USA had no such intention.
David Bakradze, Georgia's Parliament Speaker, also assured the people: the Charter does not stipulate deployment of American bases in the Georgian territory. There will be no US military bases in our country.
However at that time the Laborists allegedly stated that Saakashvili "was ready to offer a few thousand hectares of Georgian land to the USA rent-free for deployment of military bases for the period of 90 years".
The suspicions of the Laborists have not been confirmed yet. Indeed there is no clause on deployment of military bases in Georgia in the Charter while the documented military partnership is gathering pace.
On February 4 the meeting of Georgia-NATO Council established after the August events will be held in Brussels. The Georgian delegation comprising State Minister for integration in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures Giorgy Baramidze, Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and Defense Minister David Sikharulidze is planning to meet NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
The Georgian experts however practically exclude negotiations on deployment of military bases in Georgia both at that meeting and in distant future.
For instance the President of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies Alexander Rondeli made a firm statement in his interview with Georgiatimes observer:
"The negotiations on the subject are not held. There are no preconditions for deployment of American bases in Georgia. This is beyond the interests of America and Georgia. None of the alliance members has supported this decision. It is true that not only Georgia but the USA and Europe have opposed deployment of Russian bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However this does not give rise to similar actions of Americans in Georgia".
Georgia's ex Foreign Minister, now the Director of Strategic Research Center Irakli Menagarishvili also believes that there is not the slightest reason to discuss this issue. Now both parties have a lot of more significant questions. The interviewee noted that "Russia's military plans in the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia arouse concern not only in Georgia but among its partners too".
It will be remembered that in late January there was information about deployment of two Russian military bases - an air and a naval one - in Abkhazia. Before that the Russian leaders agreed with the South Ossetian and Abkhazian authorities on the number and placement of Russian military contingent in the republics, with 3800 servicemen in each.
According to the expert this fact made the NATO people react referring to the statement of the Alliance Spokesman James Appathurai on January 31 that his organization was against Russian military bases deployment in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The following day US Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza noted in his interview with Reuters: Russia should hold back from deploying military bases in the territory of Abkhazia. Probable deployment of a naval air base in Abkhazia as well as bases in South Ossetia "looks like movement in the wrong direction".