1. Main
  2. Learn
  3. Politics
  4. Military

NATO opens training centre in Georgia amid Russia tensions

NATO opens training centre in Georgia amid Russia tensions NATO opens training centre in Georgia amid Russia tensions

NATO on Thursday opened a training centre in Georgia as the ex-Soviet country eyes closer partnership with the Western military alliance amid tensions with Russia, AFP reports. 

Georgia has long sought full NATO membership and hopes to be invited to join a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a formal step towards membership, at a NATO summit in Warsaw next year.

But analysts doubt that NATO will grant the small South Caucasus country the membership plan in 2016 for fear of infuriating Russia amid tensions over Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sounded non-committal Thursday.

The establishment of the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Center, to be based just outside the capital Tbilisi, is aimed at buttressing the ex-Soviet country which fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008.

"There is more Georgia in NATO and more NATO in Georgia," Stoltenberg said at a news conference alongside Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili before the opening ceremony.

Stoltenberg, who arrived in Tbilisi on Wednesday, said that both Georgian and NATO troops would be trained at the centre.

"This centre will help Georgia to continue making its armed forces more modern and more capable of meeting 21st century challenges," Stoltenberg said at the opening ceremony in the Krtsanisi National Training Center outside Tbilisi.

"It will be equally important in training allied and partner troops," he said in the presence of Georgia's prime minister, president and top officials.

Prime Minister Garibashvili stressed for his part that the centre would increase regional stability and was not directed "against any neighbouring countries." 

Predictably, Russia slammed the move as a provocation.

"We deem this step as the continuation of the alliance's provocative policies aimed at expanding its geopolitical influence," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.

  'Georgia still on NATO agenda'

Stoltenberg praised closer ties with Georgia but refused to make any promises when he was asked about Georgia's chances of getting the NATO membership plan at the Warsaw summit.

He said that he "cannot prejudge the conclusions and the decisions which are going to be taken at the NATO summit next year."

“What I can say is that Georgia already has the necessary tools to make progress towards membership," he said.

"I see that there is more work to do, but I am very inspired and encouraged by the progress we have seen."

"All the commitments we have made together are on track and on time and all these efforts help Georgia to move closer to your aspiration of NATO membership."

"NATO will continue to stand by Georgia," Stoltenberg said separately at a joint press conference with President Giorgi Margvelashvili.

Moscow's annexation of Crimea last year and the subsequent violence in eastern Ukraine have strained Russia's already tense relations with NATO, and each accuses the other of meddling in the affairs of the former Soviet countries.

"This high-level visit is very important," Sergi Kapanadze, the founder of Georgia’s Reforms Associates think tank told AFP, referring to Stoltenberg's two-day mission.

"It indicates that Georgia is still on the international agenda, despite the grave situation in the region and despite the mixed messages regarding NATO," said Kapanadze, a former deputy foreign minister.

In August 2008, Georgia fought and lost a brief war with Russia over the Kremlin-backed separatist region of South Ossetia.

After that war, Moscow recognised South Ossetia -- along with the separatist region of Abkhazia -- as independent states and stationed thousands of troops in the regions that make up some 20 percent of Georgian territory. 

Nobel prizewinner proposes a new city in KZ
New abnormal snowfalls expected in Kazakhstan
Huge glacier retreat triggered in 1940s
Hyperloop construction begins in Las Vegas
"Moonlight" to top Spirit Awards nominations
Oil prices fall due to investors uncertainty
New dwarf galaxy discovered around Milky Way
Kanat Islam becomes a top ten WBO boxer
World oil prices continue to rise
Kazakhstan expects warming - Kazhydromet
Merkel to seek fourth term as chancellor
Sale of Tintin drawings set to break records
US, EU stocks fall as markets focus on dollar
Pacific leaders urged to defend free trade
EU warns eight nations on budget deficit
Universiade-2017: Athletic Village is ready
Bob Dylan can't make Nobel ceremony
Messi will never leave Barca - club president
Google, Facebook take aim at 'fake' news
Aerosmith announces Europe 'farewell' tour
Putin, Trump to normalise US-Russia ties
At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey blast
6.2 quake hits western Japan
OPEC agrees shock oil output cut
Israeli ex-president and Nobel laureate Peres dies
Germany blocks WhatsApp data transfers to Facebook
32,000 arrested in Turkey coup probe
Youth to the fore as Milan fashion week opens
Xenophobia threatening peace in eastern Germany
Four-in-10 Japanese are virgins: poll
Sweden re-militarises Baltic island of Gotland
China to launch second space laboratory: Xinhua
More than a billion stars mapped in Milky Way: ESA
Boxing: Golovkin eyes Saunders after stopping Brook
Kazakhstan shifts PM to security chief
Oil prices gain despite rising OPEC supply forecast
US to give Philippines military planes
Singapore wages war on Zika-bearing mosquitoes
Italy quake death toll nears 250
Viral photos add fuel to French burkini debate
18 dead as Italy struck by powerful quake
Japan's first lady visits Pearl Harbor
Pokemon's a no-go on Bangkok's roads
July was Earth's hottest month in modern times
Pakistan rock climbers scale new heights