The United States is practicing how quickly it can deploy its military to Georgia in order to respond to “Russian aggression,” according to Georgia’s Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli.
General Ben Hodges, the commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, visited Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, and spoke at a conference on September 7. After the conference, Hodges met with Minister of Defense Tinatin Khidasheli and senior Georgian military officials.
“There were a lot of interesting nuances when he discussed joint Georgian-American exercises,” Khidasheli said after the meeting. “In particular, one of the objectives of these exercises will be to see how quickly the US military vehicles and soldiers will arrive in Georgia in case of aggression – something that the General stated publicly.”
The Georgian Defense Minister went on to say that “For me, as Defense Minister, General Ben Hodges’ speech was very interesting. He made some interesting points, especially when talking about Russia. He very clearly and directly said that Russia had been busy with aggression for 20 years. I think when an American General says such phrases, it means a lot.”
According to EurasianNet, it is unclear what exactly General Hodges said. The press office of the U.S. Army in Europe was asked to clarify General Hodges remarks. The office provided a transcript of his answers to reporters’ questions at the conference, but they contained nothing about U.S. forces responding to Russian aggression in Georgia.
The relationship between the United States and Georgia has been complicated by misunderstandings about the level of the United States’ commitment to Georgia’s defense.
In 2013, Thomas de Waal, a British journalist, wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, about Georgia going to war with Russia in 2008 over South Ossetia. In the article, de Waal stated that Georgian officials went to war under the assumption that the United States would provide military support, despite the fact that President George W. Bush had told the Georgian President that if he went to war with Russia, “the U.S. cavalry isn’t coming over the horizon.”
Thomas de Wall also stated that “Although Americans and Georgians had adopted the habit of using the word “ally” to refer to each other, there was never a formal alliance between the two countries.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. Army practiced shipping Bradley Fighting Vehicles across the Black Sea from Bulgaria to Georgia. The moves made by the Americans have convinced Irakli Aladashvili, Georgia’s leading military analyst, that the United States is sincere about its intentions to defend Georgia.