The Security and Defense Working Group of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission met on October 1, 2018, in Washington, DC. The Working Group capped a remarkable year of U.S.-Georgian high-level interaction and cooperation in support of Georgia’s total defense approach, Euro-Atlantic integration, and territorial integrity. U.S. European Command Army Gen. Scaparrotti announced the start of the Georgia Defense Readiness Program’s training initiative in Tbilisi in May. The U.S. Secretary of State and Georgian Prime Minister opened the plenary session of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission (SPC) in Washington later that month. NATO held its first-ever heads of state and government meeting with Georgia at the July 2018 Brussels Summit. Georgia hosted the largest-ever NOBLE PARTNER exercise in August, attended by four-star Chief of the U.S. National Guard General Lengyel.
At the October 1 Security and Defense Working Group, the U.S. side reiterated its support for Georgia’s Western integration and reaffirmed its commitment to further assist Georgia on its way to NATO membership. The United States and Georgia reviewed the 2018 NATO Summit and welcomed the resulting NATO-Georgia Commission Declaration that reiterated the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision that Georgia will become a member of the Alliance; underlined that Georgia’s relationship with the Alliance contains all the practical tools to prepare for eventual membership; emphasized the Alliance’s full support to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders; welcomed the progress of Georgia’s reforms in the defense and security fields. The declaration outlined Georgia’s engagement in and contribution to strategic discussion and mutual awareness on Black Sea.
Each side confirmed its commitment to the full implementation of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, which advances Georgian preparation for NATO membership. The United States and Georgia also discussed further enhancing NATO’s presence in Georgia, including through the March 2019 NATO-Georgia exercise and the Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC). The sides expressed commitment to strengthening Black Sea security cooperation, including through the Joint Maritime Operations Center (JMOC).
The sides exchanged perspectives on the regional security situation and reviewed updates to national strategy documents in response to emerging challenges. The United States stressed its unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. Georgia provided an update on the ongoing violations of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the August 12, 2008 Ceasefire Agreement by the Russian Federation. The Georgian side highlighted the adoption of the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili List by the Government of Georgia and underlined Georgia’s efforts to continue to call attention to the human rights situation in the occupied territories. The sides also underscored their deep concerns regarding the suspension of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms and underlined the importance of the Geneva International Discussions in addressing the security and humanitarian consequences of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war. The sides also noted their strong support for the role of the EU Monitoring Mission in preventing the escalation of the conflict. The United States and Georgia again urged Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the August 12, 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, including withdrawing its forces to pre-war positions and providing free access for humanitarian assistance to the occupied territories.
The United States and Georgia reviewed the unprecedented level of bilateral security cooperation between our two countries, and the United States acknowledged Georgia’s role as a strategic partner in the region and a steadfast partner promoting stability and security around the globe. The sides discussed the progress of the Georgia Defense Readiness Program, through which U.S. Army advisors mentor and train Georgian Armed Forces personnel to organize, train, and sustain a military force to accomplish national missions. The sides discussed the U.S.-Georgia Security Cooperation Framework, through which the U.S. Department of Defense and Georgian Ministry of Defense identify overarching objectives to advance bilateral cooperation. The Georgian side has expressed its appreciation to the United States for transferring two Island Class vessels, which will increase the capabilities of the Georgian Coast Guard and its ability to interact with the Allied Maritime Forces.
They also reviewed the U.S.-led Noble Partner 2018 joint multilateral exercise, the largest multinational military exercise ever held in Georgia. Approximately 2,800 U.S. and Georgia troops participated, in addition to 500 troops from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, France, Estonia, and Norway. The exercise further enhanced the Georgian Armed Forces’ readiness and interoperability with the NATO Response Force.
The United States expressed appreciation for Georgia’s significant contributions to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. Georgia is the top per capita, largest non-NATO, and fourth overall forces contributor. The sides honored the significant sacrifices of Georgian and American soldiers, including Georgia’s 98 Wounded Warriors. One of them, Lt. Iveri Buadze, is currently receiving care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda after being critically wounded during an improvised explosive device attack while serving alongside U.S. Marines.
Georgia provided an update on its plans for improving national security decision-making, coordination, and strategy in the context of its recent constitutional amendments. The two sides acknowledged that democratic governments can best protect their citizens’ security and freedoms when national security and law enforcement agencies operate with deliberate strategic direction, under civilian control, within a legal framework, and with effective parliamentary oversight. Both sides emphasized the importance of apolitical law enforcement and security agencies, as well as the importance of checks and balances, to a strong democracy. Georgia provided an update on particular steps made towards strengthening parliamentary oversight of defense and security.
The parties discussed their strong cooperation to counter transnational threats. The United States commended Georgia’s progress in fight against terrorism and emphasized its strong engagement with the United States in this area. The sides committed to further deepening cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism; cybersecurity; law enforcement and counternarcotics; and border and maritime security. This cooperation advances the two countries’ common global security goals and also increases Georgia’s resilience to outside malign influences.
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Kevin O’Keefe and Policy Director from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Dr. Tiffany Petros co-chaired the U.S. side, joined by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Jorgan Andrews, Counterterrorism Office Director Marc Norman, and representatives from across the U.S. government. Deputy Foreign Minister Vakhtang Makharoblishvili and First Deputy Defense Minister Lela Chikovani co-chaired the Georgian side, leading a broad interagency delegation including: Natia Mezvrishvili, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs; Datuna Rakviashvili, Chairman of the National Security Council; and Irakli Sesiashvili, chairman of Parliament’s defense and security committee.
The U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission remains the primary mechanism for organizing and prioritizing the broad and deepening cooperation between Georgia and the United States. The Commission includes four bilateral working groups on priority areas identified in the Charter on Strategic Partnership: democracy; defense and security; economic, trade, and energy; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges.