Georgia Embraces ‘Smart Defense’ in Euro-Atlantic Bid

Georgia Embraces ‘Smart Defense’ in Euro-Atlantic Bid

Georgia's recent announcement of its intention to contribute to the European Union military training mission in Mali signals not only Tbilisi's continued role as a reliable supplier of forces for Euro-Atlantic security missions, but also the Georgian military's ambitions as a niche counterterrorism force. Under the new Georgian Dream coalition government, the Defense Ministry is embarking on a series of reforms to fit its force structure to this mission set.

After the surprise victory of Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition in Georgia's October 2012 parliamentary elections, the new government was quick to reaffirm the country's Western orientation. This included carrying out Georgia's planned doubling of forces for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, as well as a joint foreign policy document prepared with President Mikheil Saakashvili's now-opposition United National Movement (UNM) codifying a pro-Western course. Despite frequent warnings from the UNM and its Western allies of an imminent geostrategic realignment toward Russia, Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations continue to be a core foreign policy fixture. And though relations with Russia have markedly improved in small but significant areas, they remain moored to Georgia's geopolitical interests.

In fact, Georgia's new government has doubled down on its relationship with the West. Besides contributing one of the largest troop contingents in Afghanistan after the U.S., Georgian forces operate without national caveats and have plans to maintain a presence in Afghanistan in a noncombat capacity after the planned drawdown in 2014. And recently, Georgia announced that it would contribute troops to the EU’s training mission in Mali. Approached by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to participate in the noncombat mission, Georgia has agreed in principle, though the details have yet to be fully ironed out.

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