Global Insights: Georgia Casts Shadow on NATO-Russian Reconciliation

Global Insights: Georgia Casts Shadow on NATO-Russian Reconciliation

Russia and NATO have been trying to "reset" their relations in parallel with the ongoing reconciliation between Washington and Moscow. Although progress along these lines has occurred, Russia-NATO differences over Georgia remain a major impediment. Belying Moscow's hopes that the new American administration and other NATO members might reduce support for the current Georgian government in order to secure Russian assistance regarding Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues, the alliance appears unwilling to abandon Tbilisi despite Russian threats and inducements.

NATO's decision to conduct a major military exercise, "Cooperative Longbow/Lancer-09," in Georgia from May 6 through June 1 has reignited the dispute. The drill will occur under the auspices of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) program, which since 1994 has organized a series of joint defense-related activities, including military exercises, between NATO members and partner nations. Russian officials are threatening to boycott a May 7 meeting between Russian and NATO military commanders, the first since last summer, if the exercises take place.

Cooperative Longbow/Lancer-09 aims to improve interoperability among the participating militaries. Approximately 1,300 military personnel from 20 NATO member and partner countries are scheduled to take part in the two-part exercise. Cooperative Longbow-09 is a command post exercise, typically done by computer and other electronic means, involving approximately 650 military personnel. It aims to rehearse integrated staff work for large-scale crisis response actions by simulating support for a U.N.-mandated, NATO-led operation involving a multinational brigade. Cooperative Lancer-09, which will occur from May 18 to June 1, will involve field training by some 450 troops operating at the battalion level. Both stages will take place at Georgia's Vaziani military base, located 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Tbilisi.

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