NATO-ization of Georgia in full swing

The first stage of controversial NATO-led military exercises has been completed in Georgia, with the second phase scheduled to start in three days.

The maneuvers kicked off on May, 6, involving 14 countries. The second phase begins on May, 21 and will go on until June, 3.

“Staff exercises were aimed at training the compatibility of multinational forces while carrying out peacekeeping missions,” Giovani Savareze, the representative of the alliance to the trainings said.

“These exercises will bring Georgia even closer to NATO,” he added.

Moscow strongly opposes the drills, calling them an open provocation given the armed conflict in nearby South Ossetia in August 2008. President Dmitry Medvedev said they would increase tension in the region.

“Naturally, we are concerned about NATO military exercises in Georgia. They can’t make us happy in any way. On the contrary, they create problems, tensions, and I don’t think they will help European security in any way, and they will heat up tension in Georgia itself,” Medvedev told journalists at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of South Ossetia has also expressed concerns over the military activity, claiming that Georgia today is the main cause of instability in the Caucasus.

An official statement from the Ministry urged NATO to consider the consequences of its actions.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Ossetia calls on NATO management and the alliance member states to soberly evaluate possible consequences of the military support for Georgia which is the main source of danger and regional destabilization. And also the purposefulness of the policy of dragging the aggressor state into the military block.”

The exercises are being held against a backdrop of political turbulence in Georgia. An alleged coup plot was uncovered recently while opposition protests against the president are entering their second month.

Nineteen countries were initially going to take part in the games but Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Serbia withdrew at a late stage due to various reasons.