Defence Minister calls NATO to put “defensive assets” in Georgia

Georgia's Defence Minister Irakli Alasania (R) and Brent Scowcroft Center Director Barry Pavel (L)., 01 May 2014 - 13:03, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia’s Defence Minister Irakli Alasania suggested NATO allies should deploy "defensive assets” in Georgia, while speaking at a panel discussion in Washington at the Atlantic Council’s two-day conference "About Europe Whole and Free”.

Alasania and Defense Ministers from Montenegro, Estonia and the Czech Republic joined NATO’s deputy secretary general Alexander Vershbow in talking about the trans-Atlantic community’s need to respond to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

"Now the West has to seize the opportunity as my colleague was saying to create the reality on the ground by accepting the membership of aspirant countries to NATO by putting some defensive, purely defensive assets in the aspirant countries and predominantly in Georgia,” Alasania said.

"Air-defence capabilities is something we need to put in Georgia and Russia will understand that you are serious, and some other actions will be discussed bilaterally with the United States while I am here,” the Minister said.

He also called for progress in Georgia’s Membership Action Plan, preferably in time for the September NATO summit. Nations seeking to join NATO need validation from the Alliance that they are on the right track and taking the correct steps, he said.

"We are not just a partner. We are actually contributing more than some other NATO countries in Afghanistan fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with your guys. We just volunteered to be a part of the European mission in Central Africa. So all of this means that Georgia is actually pushing above the chair of responsibility and we think that a suitable response reflecting our contribution should come from NATO at the summit,” Alasania told the conference attendees.

The Defense Minister said Georgia shared the responsibilities and this was why he believed NATO should respond accordingly at the upcoming event.

"I want to make sure that we understand the response should have strategic implications. I think the sanctions we are talking about are something that will come and go as the crisis ends or freezes one way or another,” Alasanaia said.

"This is why we should do something that has strategic importance. What is this? This is an expansion of NATO; this is another round of enlargement. Actually, starting the enlargement with Georgia and other aspiring allies who are putting a lot on the plate in terms of global security. And also, without military deterrence nothing is going to happen and I think it’s rightly now they are thinking to put additional military assets in NATO countries, but they should not forget about their Eastern partners,” Alasania said.

He believed NATO exercises should take place in Georgia, and said a lot of training could be done together in a regional context between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

As for Ukraine, Alasania said he believed there were three things Ukraine needed immediately: a legitimate government and president, a very efficient strategy on how to fight corruption and how to fight infiltration.

In his opinion, the Ukraine crisis had created an opportunity to reaffirm the reason why NATO was originally created and highlight its importance and relevance. He said NATO needed to keep expanding because it was the only organisation that could effectively spread freedom and security around the globe.

The Conference, organized by the Washington-based think- tank Atlantic Council, honours the historic milestones that have forged a strong and prosperous Atlantic community and explore the most pressing challenges to the completion of a Europe whole and free. Leaders and experts gather at the Council's headquarters to debate the opportunities and challenges in Europe's East and South with the aim of exploring a renewed common trans-Atlantic approach.

See the full webcast of the panel discussion below.