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Year for Great Military Thrill and Replacements

January 11, 2010

Koba Liklikadze

Despite several unpromising prognosis, Georgia went through 2009 without war. However, similar situation can hardly be lasting peace. Replacement of military units and maneuvers lasted all year long – they dug underground truncheons around Tbilisi and Mtskheta. They filled in the military warehouses. Simultaneously, the Minister of Defense was replaced again and the country underwent so-called military mutiny.

In 2010 Commander-in-Chief of the Georgian Armed Forces broke the tradition and did not meet New Year in a military base. However, five days before the New Year, the president met the military officials and gave a very militarist speech. “Everybody in Georgia – men and women – shall join the army in order to stop the cruel enemy, the descendant of Mongols,” said Mikheil Saakashvili on December 26 when new building of the National Guardia was opened.

“Every Georgian family shall be ready. Each street, district, quarter, village, town, settlement, house and family shall become the fortress of the resistance to the enemy and liberty of Georgia,” said Saakashvili and added that state can prepare half million soldiers to defend the homeland.

“When it is time to defend Georgia, we all should join the army – 100, 200, 300 thousand people and if it is needed even half million people shall take up weapon. We can get enough automatic weapons and already have more than enough bullets.”

However, how can Georgia arm 100, 200 and 500 thousand soldiers and send them to the front? Last year, the military budget of Georgia was 900 million GEL and in 2010 it was reduced by 100 million GEL. This money is enough only for the army of 35 thousand soldiers. Last year, according to the resolution of the Parliament of Georgia, their number was increased with 5 000 soldiers. In addition to that, expenses for the Georgian military unit in Afghanistan. Although, there are only 170 soldiers in Afghanistan now, on December 3, the government of Georgia promised NATO to send additional 900 soldiers by the end of 2010. Furthermore, our government is going to send military unit to the most dangerous Hilmend Province instead “Green Zone” of Kabul.

“It is evident that it is risky but the prognosis of our government is that partners will properly appreciate such a brave decision of the small occupied state,” said Eka Tkeshelashvili, Secretary of the National Security Council, in her interview with the Radio Liberty last year.

“Based on our capability, many western European states might be ashamed for our tribute in the operations. However, we do not aim to put somebody in shame. We just want to show – and hope they will also understand it – that both nation and the state will always be ready to tribute in the resolution of common problem when it is needed,” said Eka Tkeshelashvili.

Simultaneously, the government of Georgia understands that tribute in the world security does not mean that NATO army will enter Georgia if Russia attacks our country again. Thus, maneuvers and replacement of military units lasted all year long in 2009 throughout Georgia until entire military potential was accumulated in Tbilisi. Defense buildings were constructed around the capital and Mtskheta which was called “Akhalaia’s Line” in joke like “Majino Line”.

On August 28, 2009 appointment of the former head of the penitentiary department Bacho Akhalaia as a Minister of Defense of Georgia was the most disputed military-political topic last year. Part of experts still thinks that Akhalaia’s appointment turned the Army into a branch of the MIA and personal Guardia of the president Saakashvili. However, Bacho Akhalaia in his interview with the Radio Liberty on October 4 said that he could not comment on such unserious topics and he is eager to increase fighting efficiency of the Georgian army. “The army of course has fighting efficiency, but many things shall be improved and developed. It is fact. Now, I cannot say much about this efficiency. The point is that the army is motivated, efficient, and capable; it will become more efficient and developed eventually.”

Level of recruitment is theoretical criteria for the assessment of the efficiency of the army. In accordance to the military magazine “Arsenali”, last year, Georgian army managed to reimburse the loss of the military and technical equipment caused by the war in August of 2008. However, successful military operation is the most reliable indicator for the efficiency of the army. Last year, Georgian army did not have any successful military operation or attempt of the operation to check it. However there was Mukhrovani mutiny when president of Georgia ordered to use army to subdue the so-called rebel in military base.

In the morning of May 5, 2009 Georgian TV-channels reported about the military mutiny: official representative of the MIA Shota Utiashvili spoke about the connection of the rebels with Russian occupation army.

“According to our information, organizers of this mutiny were former high-ranking military officials. Evidently, this plan was coordinated with Russia and aimed to fail NATO military trainings in Georgia and it even aimed at large-scaled military mutiny in the country. Part of the rebels had direct contact with Russian military officials and received directions from them as well as money. According to our information, Black Sea Military Fleet of Russia was ready for fight.”

The situation did not turn into a military operation in Mukhrovani.  The “rebels” did not leave the military base and surrendered to the MIA and the president. Trial on 41 soldiers and civilians lasted for 4 months though their accusations do not expose their connection with Russia. Most of the accused deny the fact of rebel and plead guilty only in resistance.

“When you asked the witnesses interrogated during the trial – those who were in Mukhrovani military base at the time – why their commander declared overall resistance they replied they protested the military parade scheduled for May 26, the Day of Independence of Georgia,” said the commander of the tank battalion dislocated in Mukhrovani Colonel Gorgiashvili at the trial on December 28.

By the way, he is the Gorgiashvili, whose tankists together with artillerists resisted Russian army in Tskhinvali most bravely. Besides Gorgiashvli, former commander of Ranger’s Unit Major Levan Amiridze is also accused. In August of 2008 he stayed in the rear of the enemy together with his unit for several weeks. The accused are Kakha Kobaidze and Davit Sulkhanishvili – commanders of the third and infantry units; they are experienced commanders with serious deeds in the past. However, how these commanders became the rebels and what led them to the resistance?

The government of Georgia, big part of the society and Georgian media do not care about the answer of this question as well as about the concentration of military potential in Tbilisi last year; they do not care why about 150 senior officers were fired from the army before the New Year when the president said the army lacks professional and experienced officers. The point is that either nobody inquires about problematic issues of security in Georgia or there are no replies to these questions. The arguments to justify the informational vacuum are more: military officials do not have time to speak openly about these issues when the country is in war situation – furthermore Georgian army will be seriously tested in tiger’s year.

On December 25, President of Georgia in his interview to the program “Position” of the TV-Company “Rustavi 2” said that next year is tiger’s year and “our tiger is ready for a jump… we will see it next year or onward… the tiger can be hunted but the tiger will turn out to be cleverer than the hunter. We already know this hunter.”

The president of Georgia said in his interview that Georgia or a tiger can defeat the hunter only by wisdom and patience. Thus, let us make a toast on New Year Eve and wish the tiger not to fail and not to get trapped by the hunter.

Radio Liberty