Neither the official information of the US nor the Georgian authorities yet gives an accurate idea of the exact date, agenda and issues to be discussed by the Pentagon chief in Georgia. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Davit Zalkaniani, is convinced that “This visit will significantly contribute to the further strengthening and deepening of the existing partnership between the countries.”
In addition to Georgia, the US Secretary of Defense will visit Ukraine and Romania. He will conclude his visit to Brussels, where a meeting of defense ministers of NATO member states will be held.
The geography of Lloyd Austin’s visit suggests to Ukrainian and Georgian experts that the focus of his meetings in both Kiev and Tbilisi is likely to be to strengthen security in the Black Sea region and provide practical assistance to NATO’s advanced partner countries, Georgia and Ukraine.
- ᲠAre they expected to visit Ukraine?
- Does the geography of the tour determine the security context of the Black Sea?
- What will Georgia offer to the US Secretary of Defense?
Expectations of Ukraine
If the historical significance of Lloyd Austin’s visit to the Georgian government is the focus of attention, Ukraine is focusing on the implementation of the agreements that were laid during the August meeting of the US and Ukrainian defense ministers.
In Washington on August 31, US and Ukrainian Defense Ministers Lloyd Austin and Andrew Taran signed an agreement on the strategic foundations of a defense partnership. The meeting of the two ministers preceded the September 1 talks between US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House. Prior to the meeting, President Biden’s administration had informed Congress that Ukraine needed to provide additional $ 60 million in military assistance to Russia over its military activities, ceasefire violations, and other provocations.
Accordingly, Ukraine expects that Lloyd Austin’s visit next week will be another demonstration of military assistance to Ukraine and Georgia.
“By the way, I look forward to demonstrating decisions by handing over American weapons to Georgia and Ukraine that would demonstrate that Washington is not paying attention to Moscow’s statements and will act strictly in its sole discretion.”– Said Evhen Magda, director of the Kiev Institute of World Politics in an interview with Rado Freedom.
Lloyd Austin, the first African-American Secretary of Defense to be formally nominated by President Joe Biden on December 10 last year, is a staunch supporter of the sovereignty and independence of Georgia and Ukraine.
During a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Lloyd Austin called on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea and to promote conflict in eastern Ukraine, noting that the United States would continue to support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.
According to the US Department of Defense, the US assistance to Ukraine after the Russian aggression is more than $ 2.5 billion, and this year, this assistance includes the delivery of American anti-tank missile systems to Ukraine, Javelin.
Black Sea Security Context
One of the issues to be discussed during Lloyd Austin’s visit to Ukraine and Georgia is the further strengthening of the US role in the security of the Black Sea.
According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, David Zalkaliani, the planned visit within the framework of the regional tour testifies to the importance of peace and stability in the Black Sea region for the United States.
As another foreign tour, selected by the US Secretary of Defense for the Black Sea countries – Romania, Georgia and Ukraine – analysts also see Washington’s growing interest in NATO’s Black Sea flank.
“The geography of Lloyd Austin’s visit gives us the right to think that during his visit we will talk not only about military assistance to Georgia and Ukraine, countries that are NATO’s advanced partners, but also about strengthening NATO’s southern direction and the Black Sea flank. “Ukraine is constantly talking about this, and I think the United States, in the context of building alliances, I mean the new alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom. It should also be interested in that.” – Says Eugene Magda.
Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, Russia has seriously altered its military balance in the Black Sea, a matter of serious concern to NATO.
“Black Sea security is a priority of NATO and Georgia. We are concerned about Russia’s constant military strengthening in the region. “Russia is using Crimea to increase its presence in the Black Sea, and we are also trying to increase our presence in the Black Sea.”, – said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a meeting with the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili on March 17 this year.
What will Georgia offer Lloyd Austin?
Both the political and military leaderships of Georgia do not specify what message Lloyd Austin will deliver on the security of the Black Sea in Georgia, or what he intends to say to a high-ranking guest during this, in their estimation, historic visit.
Analysts in the field of international relations and security research suggest that the Biden administration’s first visit to Georgia will have significant practical consequences.
“Today, when the United States is in the process of revising too much, while NATO is working to finally approve a new strategic concept for the alliance next year, which should define the next ten-year perspective, and when it comes to working on the Black Sea, it is self-evident. , That the role of the US and the US vision of Black Sea security are very important. This view is not limited to NATO member states, but also refers to the region, including non-member countries, Georgia and Ukraine. “So I think this is exactly the practical dimension of this visit, and the focus will be on what can be done to help the parties contribute to the international security basket of the Black Sea and to strengthen that security.”Tengiz Pkhaladze, senior researcher at the European Center for International Political Economy, told RFE / RL.
But what can Georgia “put in this basket”, which is not the only country in the Black Sea region without a navy and the US-backed Coast Guard, which is part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, looks modest in the face of the gigantic threats in the Black Sea.
“Obviously, I wish we could do more. If we had the ongoing construction of the Anaklia deep-water port at the moment, then in the context of logistics we could offer something special. “Unfortunately, we do not have such a grand offer, but nevertheless, Georgia’s role is important for NATO if we use the existing cooperation programs properly.” – says Tengiz Pkhaladze.
It should be noted that there is a NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Assessment Center in Georgia, Georgia has received a substantial NATO package, and in a bilateral context with the US there is a very important Georgian defense readiness program, under which the 9th Combat Battalion has been trained on a rotating basis.
According to an anonymous source in the Georgian government, Georgia may offer US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin either to extend the existing defense readiness program or to launch a similar bilateral program to maintain the Georgian Army’s unique compatibility with Alliance troops in the Afghan Multinational Military Mission. Active participation in the Army was ensured.