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US may rearm Georgia, despite Moscow's opposition

Russia vows to stop re-arming of Georgia: report
Russia is taking "concrete measures" to stop the remilitarization of its US-allied neighbour Georgia, a top Russian diplomat said in an interview with the ITAR-TASS news agency on Thursday. The comments by Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin came as US Vice President was visiting Georgia in a show of support for the former Soviet republic, which fought a brief war with Russia last year. "We are deeply concerned about the actions of the Georgian leadership aimed at the remilitarization of the country, which are amazingly being met with a calm and even a positive reaction by some governments," Karasin said. "We will continue to prevent the re-arming of Saakashvili's regime and are taking concrete measures against this," he added, referring to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a bitter foe of Moscow. Moscow has repeatedly complained about Western support for Georgia, whose government has sought to join the NATO military alliance and pursued close ties with the United States. Russia and Georgia fought a brief war last August over Georgia's breakaway Moscow-backed region of South Ossetia.

Ukraine stops Russian military convoy en route to Sevastopol
Ukraine on Thursday stopped two Russian military convoys, including one transporting missiles to the disputed naval base of Sevastopol. Police stopped a convoy of three vehicles and found each was transporting a cruise missile to Russia's fleet in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian interior ministry said. The convoy did not have the necessary authorisation from Ukraine but was later allowed to continue its journey, the ministry added. Russia has had a fleet in the Ukrainian port Sevastopol for more than 200 years, but the base has recently become a source of tension as relations between the two nations frayed. Moscow has a lease on the base until 2017 and Ukrainian officials have repeatedly called for the fleet to leave when the lease expires. Earlier Thursday, Ukrainian security forces briefly stopped a Russian convoy of armoured vehicles which were due to take part in a rehearsal for a military parade Sunday, a military source told Russian news agency Interfax. "We consider that another unfriendly and provocative gesture from the Ukrainian authorities, which worsens the already tense situation in the city," the source said, adding Ukraine had been told about the transportation of the vehicles beforehand. Vasyl Kyrylych, Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman, told Interfax Russia must take care to avoid "possible violations" of Ukrainian law and agreements on the Russian fleet. All movements of Russian military equipment outside the Sevastopol base must be agreed with Ukraine, he added. The Russian Black Sea fleet is just one of several disputes driving a wedge between Moscow and Kiev. Other issues stoking tensions include Ukraine's desire to join military alliance NATO, and disagreements over the price of gas sold to Ukraine by Moscow. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) July 23, 2009
The United States does not exclude possibly rearming Georgia following its humiliating defeat to Russia a year ago, even at the cost of angering Moscow, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.

"Georgia is on a path that the United States supports toward NATO membership," reminded Philip Crowley when asked about Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's calls for US military aid.

"Clearly, you know, a fundamental tenet of NATO membership is to have a military that meets NATO standards and would add to the capability of the alliance," the spokesman added, before citing the "defense requirements" of the former Soviet Union republic.

In interviews with The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post this week on the eve of US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Georgia, Saakashvili asked for anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons from the United States in order to defend Georgia against a possible Russian attack.

As Biden met Saakashvili in Tbilisi Thursday, a senior Russian diplomat warned that Moscow would not permit Georgia to re-arm following a fierce, five-day war last August in which much of its military was destroyed.

"We will continue to prevent the re-arming of Saakashvili's regime and are taking concrete measures against this," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said in an interview with the state news agency ITAR-TASS.

Biden acknowledged the United States was working on "maintaining" the Georgian military but said these efforts were limited to "planning, training, organization" -- not supply of weapons.

The vice president also defended Georgia's territorial integrity and its bid to join the North Atlantic alliance.

"The vice president outlined today not only the importance of our relationship with Georgia, our willingness to help Georgia with its defensive requirements and a commitment that we will continue to work closely with the government going forward," Crowley explained.

When asked if that commitment could affect relations with Russia, with which President Barack Obama has vowed to "reset" frozen ties, Crowley told reporters that Washington has refused to recognize any Russian sphere of influence.

"I think we have made clear to Russia that ultimately decisions like this rest with the people of Georgia," he said. "We will continue to have, I'm sure, conversations with Russia on these issues."

Georgian officials said US supply of arms to Georgia was not specifically discussed in the meetings with Biden but was also not beyond the realm of possibility.

"The US-Georgia strategic partnership charter envisages, among other issues, that the United States will help Georgia to further develop its defense capabilities," parliamentary speaker David Bakradze told AFP.

Tbilisi and Washington signed a strategic partnership agreement in January that includes a plan to train and equip Georgian forces to boost their capabilities to eventually operate with NATO troops.

The agreement, signed by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and her Georgian counterpart Grigol Vashadze, amounted to a declaration of intent that did not formally commit the incoming Obama administration.

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