Defense Minister on Defense Reform, NATO

The Minister of Defense of Georgia Levan Izoria spoke before the Georgian Parliament’s Defense and Security Committee on April 11, presenting the ongoing and planned changes in Georgia’s defense system.

Izoria stated that the Georgian reforms followed the changes in the defense policies of the Euro-Atlantic community that have occurred since 2014. According to Izoria, these changes reflect awareness of Russia as the main threat, and inform Georgia that besides equipment and training, the number of troops is also an important factor. Among the latest examples of these changes Izoria cited recent restoration of conscription in Sweden and Lithuania.

“We have an ambition to be strong not only in the international missions … but also to have within our own country the level of military preparedness high enough to adequately respond to a potential aggression,” said Izoria.

Izoria told the MPs that these concerns stood behind Georgia’s own reinstatement of conscription, as well as the planned introduction of the new reserve system as a key component of the total defense concept.

Another aspect of the reforms mentioned by Izoria concerned the defense budgeting. According to him, 70% of Georgia’s military budget was spent on salaries and social benefits – well over the NATO standard of 55% maximum. The Defense Minister explained that this was going to change, with larger portions of the budget directed towards equipment and combat readiness.

Izoria stressed the need for deterrence, saying that: “if the country is not protected, if its sovereignty is not provided for, we do not have a chance of development… So, these steps [strengthening of defense capabilities] must become in the long term a defensive umbrella in front of the dangers that threaten not only Georgia, but all Europe and the civilized world – the danger coming from Russia – which must be met with adequate response through strengthening our defensive, and only defensive capabilities.”

The Unites States is going to support improvement of Georgia’s defense capabilities through the new Georgia Defense Readiness Program, supported by the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds.

The program envisions establishment of a combat training center in Georgia, similar to the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany. Izoria said the center will probably be located in Vaziani, with Georgia investing 10 million Lari.

Another part of the program is consistent military training of the Georgian forces in accordance with the NATO standards for the next three to four years. Izoria said that nine Georgian infantry battalions would begin their training within the program from March 1, 2018.

Izoria has also informed the MPs that Georgia has offered NATO to send two of its military officers to serve at the headquarters of NATO’s Multinational Framework Brigade in Romania.