Donald Rumsfeld Returns to Georgia
Only reported in English on the website of the Georgian Ministry of Defense, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Georgia for a week in late June.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, NATO's Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, also an American, and NATO's Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Mieczyslaw Bieniek were also in the country last month. During Vershbow's visit Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze announced that Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will visit his nation in September.
Something is drawing top U.S. and NATO officials to the South Caucasus nation, as a six-member U.S. Congressional delegation also arrived there on July 2 to meet with President Mikheil Saakashvili and Deputy Defense Minister Nodar Kharshiladze and observe U.S.-trained Georgian troops prepare for deployment for NATO's war in Afghanistan.
Vershbow, former ambassador to NATO and to Russia and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, was in the nation to attend the Georgia Defence and Security Conference on June 29 and was accompanied by Assistant Secretary of Defense (and principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense and Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics for matters concerning nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs) Andrew C. Weber; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia Celeste Wallander; and Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, U.S. European Command's deputy director of plans, policy and strategy.
In May Admiral Montgomery was the first to announce, a week before the NATO summit, that the U.S.-NATO European interceptor missile system had reached initial capability with the deployment of American warships equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors, a forward-based radar in Turkey and a command and control center at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany.
Before the conference in Georgia, NATO's Vershbow met with Georgian Defense Minister Bachana (Bacho) Akhalaia to discuss the host country's NATO integration and its enhanced troop strength in Afghanistan, where Georgia will soon be the largest contributor of any non-NATO member.
Poland's General Bieniek, second-in-command of NATO's U.S.-based Allied Command Transformation, was also in Georgia for two days in June during which time he delivered a lecture at the National Defence Academy and met with NATO member states' defence attaches accredited to Georgia.
The American congressional delegation will "observe U.S. and Georgian service members training together in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)," according to a U.S. embassy press release.
The day before delegation's arrival, President Saakashvili addressed graduates at the Cadets Military Lyceum in Kutaisi and his comments included:
"There is nothing more authoritative in Georgia than the Georgian army."
The Georgian armed forces need to remain ever-vigilant and perpetually mobilized because "the one who wants to invade entire Georgia is not sleeping."
"We will never have a huge army, but at the same time we will have up to 100,000 reserve troops, which will be ready to defend their villages, streets and neighborhood if we need it."
On June 21 Rumsfeld returned to Georgia. His first trip to the country was in December 2001, eleven months after becoming U.S. defense secretary, following which visit the Defense Department launched the Georgia Train and Equip Program, at first led by U.S. Green Beret special forces, then by the U.S. Marine Corps and personnel of the British Army. The program lasted until 2004, when it was succeeded by the Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program. Altogether, the U.S. and its NATO allies have refashioned the Georgian armed forces for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and for the invasion of South Ossetia and war with Russia in 2008.
On December 5, 2003 Rumsfeld was the first senior American official to visit the nation after the extra-legal putsch, known as the Rose Revolution, that later brought Saakashvili to power with a 96 percent vote the following month.
Two weeks after standing president Eduard Shevardnadze was manhandled and forced from office, Rumsfeld was in Tbilisi to, in his words, "underscore America's very strong support for stability and security and the territorial integrity here in Georgia." The comment was a hardly veiled threat to Adjara, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose leadership wanted no part of a "Rose" Georgia and whose presidents went to Moscow for emergency consultations immediately after the coup in Tbilisi of November 23.