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Norway is paving the way for a new NATO base in Georgia

While Russia-West relations are worse than in decades, the Norwegian defense is leading the construction of a new NATO base in Georgia, the country that was at war with Russia in 2008.


Of: Ragnar Skre It may seem like a Uriah post, but Norway actually wanted the mission to build a new base for NATO just south of Russia, in a country where Russian tanks thundered through the streets less than seven years ago. The government's wish is why Colonel Lieutenant Ole Christian Emaus in the Army sits in front of us at the bar of the old Ajara hotel in Tbilisi, a former refugee home, instead of taking a new "tour" in Afghanistan. NATO agreed at the Wales Summit last year to give Georgia a so-called "support package" as a compromise – because membership is not political after the country was at war with Russia in 2008. The first bit of the "package" is a new NATO base. That is why the Norwegian government wanted it. It is yet to be determined what the Western military alliance is going to do with a new base here. The only thing that is determined is that it must be built. Maybe there will be just one base on the paper: some advisers in an office in the Georgia Department of Defense. "Is it a center where people come in and train, a big center, or is it a concept, a way of thinking? There is much doubt about that, ”explains Emaus. He also has no answer as to why exactly Georgia is chosen as the place. There is something to find out later. The west shows muscles. On April 15, the war in Ukraine lasted for a year. Western military instructors are in the process of training the country's military, while the war has been halted for the time being following a fragile ceasefire agreement, "Minsk II". A couple of weeks ago a brand new exercise started - Atlantic Resolve - to deter "Russian aggression" against NATO members and allies in Eastern Europe. American Bradley tanks, specially designed to withstand nuclear weapons, paraded with hoisted flags just a few hundred meters from the Russian-Estonian border. Part of the force marking was the US Army Dragon Ride, which started and ended in Vilseck, Germany. It was met with anti-war protesters both in Prague and in Vilseck. Such interruptions are unlikely to happen when the bradley's arrive in Georgia to attend Noble Partner, the Georgian piece of Atlantic Resolve. A spokesman for the Georgian Ministry of Defense could not say whether the bradleys would drive along country roads in Georgia, the same roads where Russian tanks invaded and maintained a "buffer zone" in the fall of 2008. Americans can, if desired, wave the star-studded banner within sight. from the border posts towards the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Particularly relevant is a small area not far from Tbilisi that Georgia lost in the war, and which is now called "Leningor" after the founder of the Soviet Union. The Noble Partner will take place at the Vaziani base, one of the sites where the "Norwegian" training center is considered to be located, and will aim to improve the Georgian military's ability to function within NATO's response force, so-called "interoperability". Witch Stew. Moscow has warned that it will not accept that NATO builds infrastructure in Georgia or that attempts are made to withdraw Georgia as a member of the Western Alliance. Defense Minister Irakli Alasania, who for many years has been America's favorite in Georgian politics but lacks political flair, stood proud after the Wales summit and defended the country's right to expand NATO infrastructure in defiance of Russia's protests. But in November, he was abruptly ousted as he was to sign a new agreement with France on the supply of air defense systems. The crisis led to an open division in Georgian politics over alliance for the first time. One of the parties in the governing coalition is now arguing that the tension surrounding the war in Ukraine, where two nuclear powers are facing each other, means that Georgia, which is so close, should avoid alliance affiliation and rather be neutral. The main emphasis in the coalition is on applying for NATO membership, but there is now an open debate on the topic, which was unthinkable under Saakashvili. Some also call for a referendum on membership of the Eurasian Union, the new Russian-led bloc (consisting of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan). The Norwegians thus come to a region that is difficult to orientate themselves in. But this is not the first time. In 2004, Norwegian legal experts agreed to build a "rule of law". It did not go so well. Eight years later, the government was overthrown by two-thirds of voters, mainly because they believed the judicial system had become a tool of political repression. Emaus and his boss, Minister of Defense Ine Eriksen Søreide, will therefore have a demanding balancing act. NATO's "package" will provide practical and symbolic support to a small country in an unstable and complicated region that Norway has previously shown little ability to understand, and this will be done without reinforcing the impression in the Kremlin that this is a form of Western expansion . Fresh war experience against Russia. During the year the war in Ukraine has been, NATO has worked hard to devise a new strategy, a so-called «Readiness action plan». It was ready at the Wales Summit last September, and is set to build a large mobile "Response Force" (NRF), now upgraded from ten to thirty thousand soldiers, which can be deployed at short notice. A spearhead force of five thousand men can be sent within 48 hours. One possible location for training these forces is precisely the new Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC). Moscow has warned that they will not accept NATO building infrastructure in Georgia. "We need to find out what we can do with JTEC in Georgia to make it interesting for nations to come here and train. We must find something unique this country can offer NATO countries. Then you have to look at everything from regulations, availability in areas, the opportunity to shoot around the clock and use of technical equipment. What is not today in Europe? " asks Emaus. What he does not mention, but as it would have been strange if he had not been the subject of meetings with Georgian colleagues, is that the country was recently at war with Russia. This is perhaps the most important alliance planner can get out of doing exercises right here. The crisis between East and West as a result of the war in Ukraine has created a new "market" for military planners. The purpose is not only to help Georgia train and evaluate its own strengths up to the Nato standard, but to make the fitness center attractive to Western partners, says Emaus. Almost all the answers are formulated as new questions, and resemble rhetoric in seller language. His team has just completed one fact-finding mission, and now they are going home to Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide to tell what they have seen. This is the first bit of the "package". The stated purpose is to support Georgia's defense capabilities, but there is no doubt that the package is at the same time something NATO can benefit from. First, it contributes to the Alliance's ongoing strengths, posture, in the vicinity of Russia. "The fitness center will be NATO's most visible presence in Georgia," said Deputy Secretary Alexander Vershbow when he arrived here in January. Boxes above their weight class. In the midst of this superpower game, the Norwegian defense has folded. Three positions have been laid off, and Emaus himself will move to Tbilisi – initially for one year. It was the government that wanted Norway to lead this. Emaus was honored as an experienced foreign warrior with backgrounds from Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan (where he has eight "tours" behind him) and has not yet managed to get into what kind of military they have in Georgia. This is the first Nordic-Baltic defense cooperation, and this is the first time that Norway has the lead for such a project. War has a high status. Georgia's military is special, not only in its recent war experience against the Russian military, but also in that it is the only country to have participated in the last two occupations of Afghanistan – both with the Soviet (1979-1989) and in the last occupation under US leadership. (2001 to 2014). There are many Afghanistan veterans from both wars in the Georgian military, and war is surrounded by an ingrained, "positive" mystery. Skirt dealers. The most important agreement between Russia and NATO - Founding Act - Nato prohibits the creation of new permanent bases in Eastern Europe, but allows temporary deployments. NATO's new response force, which is mobile, is circumventing the agreement, but Russia has been increasingly protesting what is happening. NATO will have command stations in the peripheral countries against Russia that will be ready to receive the response force, but the question is how much infrastructure they will have – and whether it borders on real new bases. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on April 2 that NATO's strengthening of the East is "an incomparably dangerous step that breaks with absolutely every agreement imaginable", and specifically referred to the Founding Act, which is still in force. But Ian Anthony, director of the Swedish Peace Research Institute SIPRI's European Security Program, believes the Founding Act itself is not a hindrance to NATO's plans in Georgia since the country is not a member and therefore not a party to the agreement. Nevertheless, Russia has sent clear signals that the Georgia base is not desirable. Russia's NATO ambassador Alexander Grusko called it "provocative" in February. Lavrov warned last month that Russia would "take action" if it turns out that NATO is trying to withdraw Georgia. Then it is up to the strategists in the Norwegian Ministry of Defense to determine if it is worth the risk. Søreide's ambitious plans. "The center will contribute to effective training of Georgia's armed forces. By conducting training and training, Allied forces will help increase Georgia's defense capability and ability to collaborate with NATO forces in future operations, ”writes Nina Borgen Bakkevoll, Head of the International Security and Defense Cooperation Section of the Department of Security Policy in the Department of Defense, in an email. "Will the new center mean anything from or to Georgia's path to possible NATO membership?" "NATO's Georgia support package is part of the process of preparing Georgia for a future membership. The fitness center is just a small part of the package. ” "How do you think in the Department of Defense that this new center will be perceived by Russia?" "Georgia is an important partner country for NATO, and the relationship dates back to 1994 when Georgia became part of the Partnership for Peace" program. Established in 2008, the NATO-Georgia Commission is the most important forum for political consultations and practical cooperation between Georgia and the Alliance. NATO's liaison office in Tbilisi was established in 2010. Thus, NATO's support package for the country is a natural extension of the long-standing cooperation. This is Russia well acquainted with. " "One month ago, Russia's NATO ambassador to Grushko said plans for a fitness center in Georgia are provocative. Is it necessary for NATO to train its forces right here in Georgia when you know that Russia sees it that way? " “All countries are free to choose their own foreign and security policy approach. Georgia is a valued partner for NATO. Norway supports Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. NATO's support package for Georgia is based on Georgian wishes and initiatives, ”writes Bakkevoll. She does not want to comment on whether increased NATO presence in Georgia will improve or aggravate the possibility of finding a solution to the so-called frozen conflicts with outbreak republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia: "What effect does NATO presence have in the future? I'm not to speculate on. "

Skre is a freelance journalist.

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