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Georgia - Ministry of Defense

Military forces have played a critical role in Georgian politics since 1989. In 1991 Georgia's president was overthrown by military force, and the Shevardnadze regime relied heavily on the armed forces to stay in power. Warfare in the autonomous regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as armed resistance by Gamsakhurdia supporters in western Georgia, have further emphasized the military's major role in national security.

In November 1992, the parliament passed a law creating the Council for National Security and Defense. This body was accountable to parliament, but, as head of government and commander in chief of the armed forces, Shevardnadze was council chairman. Shevardnadze named Ioseliani and Kitovani deputy chairmen of the council; Tedo Japaridze, top expert on the United States in the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, became the chairman's aide. The powers of the council included the right to issue binding decisions on military and security matters. In May 1993, Shevardnadze disbanded the council to deprive Ioseliani and Kitovani of their government power bases. The council was then reconstituted with Shevardnadze's chairmanship assuming greater power.

When Georgia gained its independence it inherited few military assets. Some Georgian officers and soldiers with experience in the Soviet armed forces returned to Georgia to serve their country. Only modest amounts of equipment, mostly obsolescent, were left to the Georgian military. Within months of independence Georgia was forced by the outbreak of civil war to create a fighting force capable of defending the newly independent state. Compelled to leave tile Abkhazian region in the hands of separatists. the Georgian military by 1994 comprised a few units whose ranks were thinned by wartime casualties and whose troops had few resources. Like other sectors of the Georgian state, the military and security forces require wide-ranging reform. restructuring, and modernization. By 1999, seven independent armed forces existed in Georgia, including the Armed Forces, National Guard, Border Guards, Interior Troops, Independent Assault Brigade, Police Special Duties Unit, and the Special Service for the Protection of the State (SSPS). These independent military groups acted autonomously, which posed a major problem for state control. Individuals used these private forces as their own power bases to pursue personal agendas.

By 2005 Georgian officials had taken a number of steps to consolidate the seven branches of the defense forces. The National Guard and the Independent Assault Brigade had been folded into the Georgian Armed Forces within the Ministry of Defense. Meanwhile, the Border Guards and Police Special Duties Unit came under the Interior Ministry's control. Most importantly, Interior Ministry troops and their equipment had been transferred to the Ministry of Defense, underscoring the Interior Ministry's responsibility for the non-military functions of policing and maintaining domestic order.

In the late 1990s, faced with budget constraints and acting on the advice of expert Western advisers, the Georgian leadership resolved to slash the size of the armed forces to create a small, mobile army that would meet NATO standards. Since then, the armed forces were indeed downsized from approximately 38,000 men to some 20,000 in early 2004, primarily by reducing ancillary, noncombat personnel. On his appointment as defense minister in early 2004, former Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said the armed forces would be reduced further in size, to around 15,000 men, Caucasus Press reported on 20 February 2004.

But Irakli Okruashvili, who took over in December 2004 from Bezhuashvili's successor Giorgi Baramidze, said while visiting Washington in April 2005 that he thought it may be necessary to increase the number of active duty personnel, possibly by adding one more brigade to the existing four. The International Security Advisory Board (ISAB)ISAB was formed in 1996 to provide high-level independent advice to the Baltic countries on the reform and modernization of their national security sectors. This early success prompted the Georgian government to request ISAB support for its modernization efforts in 1998. In its report for 2005, the ISAB noted that earlier reviews had identified an optimum total strength of 13,000-15,000 active-duty personnel for the Georgian armed forces. The ISAB report further noted that plans for a four-brigade structure plus an increased reserve force would "represent an increase of 25-30 percent on earlier planning figures" in the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) agreed with NATO in 2004.

Georgia has no territorial claims to any other state and will refrain from using force against the territorial Integrity or political independence of other states. Accordingly, Georgia's defense policy directs that the nation's armed forces be sufficient to deter a military attack against its territory, its infrastructure, or its institutions. In the event that deterrence fails, the Georgian Armed Forces should be able to counter threats until assisted by the Intel-national community.

Georgia has embarked on an ambitious national effort to establish a democratic society based on the rule of law, separation of state powers, respect for individual rights and a market economy. A central objective of Georgian foreign and security policy is also Georgia's progressive integration into European and Euro-Atlantic political, economic, and security structures. For these reasons, reform and restructuring of the Georgian armed forces are taking place along Western lines. These efforts are being guided by the following principles:

  • The Georgian Armed Forces will be managed by a Ministry of Defense whose staff is increasingly civilianized. Parliament maintains oversight of the Ministry's overall budget and expenditures.
  • Defense expenditures must not place an excessive burden on the economy. Accordingly, military planners envisage a gradual transition to a smaller active-duty force built around a core of commissioned and non-commissioned officers and contract soldiers, supplemented by reservists whose ranks would be filled by conscripts who have received some military training. The bulk of this future force will consist of mobile, light or motorized infantry with modern surveillance, communications, and transportation assets and a more centralized command and control system. Rationalization of headquarters and support functions is also a priority.
  • Service in the Georgian Armed Forces must be a positive experience that builds citizens. This means that our limited defense resources must be focused first on ensuring that the troops are well trained and provided for. Training will focus not only on military operations and tactics, but also on the role of military forces in a democratic society.
  • Modernization programmes are focused on acquiring the most affordable and effective means to enhance the defensive capabilities of the Georgian Armed Forces.

Georgia's armed forces must be able to deter and, If necessary, defeat attacks by modest sized forces. In conjunction with the State Department of Border Guard, they must also be able to detect and present smaller-scale infiltration of border areas and deal with potential unrest or disruption along the borders that might result from violence in neighboring regions.

The Georgian Armed Forces must also be prepared to defend the integrity of the state and ensure civil order by defeating any type of armed forces that might seek to divide Georgia or to change, by force of arms, its political system or form of government. The armed forces will not to perform police functions. However, in extreme situations, they might be called upon to assist civil authorities in maintaining order.

The Georgian Armed Forces have the capacity and the mission when called upon, to supplement civil authorities during times of emergency arising from natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods. Special units are trained to deal with the exigencies of major terrorist operations. Additionally, military intelligence, with possessed abilities, provides assistance to military structures which are obliged to fight terrorism. As the Georgian armed Forces gain improved capabilities to accomplish their core missions of national defense, they will be made available to participate in selected multilateral peacekeeping operations outside Georgia and its immediate environs.

According to the amendment to the law on "Approval of the Number of Georgian Military Forces" dated 15 July 2007, the number of military servicemen in the Georgian Military Forces was increased by 5,000 servicemen. According to the law, the number of Georgian Armed Forces now amounts to 37,000 military servicemen.

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Page last modified: 30-09-2012 18:06:48 ZULU