TBILISI, DFWatch–As NATO’s military drills ‘Agile Spirit 2021’ got underway in Georgia this week, spokespersons for both Georgia and Russia made warning statements illustrating the risk of another round of conflict.
Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov first said NATO’s Agile Spirit 2021 exercise with 2,500 military personnel from 12 alliance members and three partner countries right on Russia’s borders is forcing Russia to take ‘countermeasures’.
The implicit threat drew Georgia’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Lasha Darsalia to respond by urging Russia to live up to its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement and pull back troops from two breakaway territories of Georgia, a former Soviet but now Western allied country which straddles Russia’s southern border in the Caucasus.
Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008 which ended in a ceasefire agreement but Russia established military bases in the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and has occupied them ever since.
Instead of threatening statements, it is better for Russia to fulfill the ceasefire agreement of August 12, 2008 and withdraw its armed forces from the territory of Georgia, Darsalia said. Russia’s aggressive policy undermines the security of Georgia, as well as the entire region, he added.
The Kremlin spokesman on his part claimed, while answering a question about Azerbaijan’s participation in the drills, that NATO’s military exercise indicates that the alliance sees Russia as its main adversary and implied that the drills may have a hidden agenda.
“This is another confirmation that NATO with its military infrastructure operates close to our borders, not just around – but in contact with our borders. This is, of course, subject to very close monitoring on our part. The main thing is that it obliges us to take measures to ensure our safety. This is what the President and the Minister of Defense have repeatedly said, and our representatives at various levels,” Peskov said.
But Georgia, as a sovereign state, has the full right to conduct military exercises on its territory, including those of a multinational nature, in compliance with the requirements of international law, Darsalia countered.
“Ongoing military exercises on the territory of Georgia serve to increase interoperability between units of the Alliance member and partner countries, to improve and strengthen operational capabilities in the planning and execution of operations in a multinational environment, to develop cooperation in the field of multinational preparedness and security and are not directed against any third party.
“Instead of threatening statements, it is better for Russia to fulfill the ceasefire agreement of August 12, 2008, to withdraw its armed forces from the territory of Georgia, and that would help improve the security environment,” Darsalia said.
About 2,500 troops from 12 NATO members and three partner countries are participating in the drills, which run from July 26 till August 6. Out of the military personnel, 1,600 are Georgian troops, while 700 are U.S. servicemen. 250 come from other participating countries, according to U.S. Army Europe and Africa.
Apart from the United States, member countries the United Kingdom, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Spain, Canada, Italy and Lithuania are participating in the drills, in addition to partner countries Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine.