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Europe

NATO to Help Develop Georgia's Military Capabilities

NATO will be going ahead with plans to help develop Georgia's military capabilities and will now have access to information concerning its airspace activity.

Georgians hold national, EU and NATO flags at a rally against Russia at Freedom Square in Tbilisi, Monday, Sept. 1, 2008

Georgia has long been keen to cultivate NATO and the EU as allies

Both are long-standing projects within the context of Georgia's Partnership for Peace program with NATO, the alliance's spokesman James Appathurai said Wednesday, Sept. 3.

"NATO as an organization will not be supplying weapons or arms to Georgia. What NATO can do, and what NATO is doing, is assisting the Georgians in defining their own defense capabilities. This is something that is enshrined in our Partnership for Peace agreements," Appathurai said.

"Obviously the context is somewhat different for Georgia, but if any support is provided to the Georgian government for rebuilding its defense capabilities, it will be done by nations, not NATO," the spokesman said, adding that a NATO defense planning team recently visited Georgia ahead of a long-planned North Atlantic Council meeting scheduled to take place in Tbilisi next week.

Fostering NATO-Georgia ties

In the meantime, another NATO-Georgia project, the so-called Air Situation Data Exchange System, was connected last week. The system is designed to improve air safety in Georgia. But it will also give NATO access to the country's airspace activity.

"Again, this is a longstanding project," Appathurai said.

The spokesman criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for portraying a long-planned NATO fleet exercise off the coast of Romania and Bulgaria as a military build-up by the alliance in the Black Sea.

"There is no buildup of NATO forces in the Black Sea," he said. "If the Russians are looking for a pretext to take other steps, this is not a very good one," Appathurai added.

NATO's Partnership for Peace program was set up in the 1990s to create better ties between NATO and Eastern European countries that were once members of the Soviet Union or the Warsaw Pact.

Georgia, which is now aspiring to become a full member of the alliance, signed up to the program in 2005.

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