Georgian MoD Adopts Strategic Defense Review for 2017-2020

On April 24 Georgia’s Ministry of Defense published its new Strategic Defense Review (SDR) document for 2017-2020. The document describes development priorities of the MoD and Georgian Armed Forces for the designated time period, as well as the armed forces’ planned structure by 2020.

This is the third SDR document issued by Georgia’s MoD. The previous two versions were adopted in 2007 and 2012. According to the 2017 document, the 2007 version used “capability-based methodology,” but the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 changed Georgia’s policy, with the 2012 document employing “threat-based methodology” and focusing on the threats emanating from the Georgian regions occupied by Russia. The 2017 document says that since Georgia is still facing possible aggression by Russia, it also uses threat-based methodology.

The SDR was developed by a working group that included representatives from other state agencies besides MoD, as well as foreign experts.

Threats Facing Georgia

SDR 2017-2020 states that for Georgia “the main factor for planning national defense and security still remains the threat from the Russian Federation,” and calls Russia’s aggressive foreign policy the “special threat for Georgia’s security environment.”

The document cites Russia’s “readiness to abuse the sovereignty of neighboring countries, neglecting the norms of international law, through open military aggression and hybrid methods” as the main security challenge for Georgia, aggravated by Russia’s ongoing military development and modernization. According to the SDR, Russia’s purpose to establish its influence over the region “increases the risk of continuation of aggression,” as exemplified by Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The document also states that one of Russia’s strategic goals is gaining control over the region’s energy resources and their distribution.

The SDR authors note that Russian military build-up in the Southern Military District and on the Black Sea “will weaken the West’s access to the Caucasus region, and, accordingly, decrease its capability to balance Russia.”

The SDR highlights the threats related to the Russian occupation, including “growing militarization” of Georgia’s occupied territories, Moscow’s signing of the “so called alliance treaties” with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, and the absense of international peacekeepers in the occupied regions which “increases the risk of provocations and renewed military aggression.”

The MoD document stresses the danger of new large-scale military aggression against Georgia that will remain during the period of 2017-2020 due to “non-implementation of the ceasefire agreement from August 12, 2008 and the presence of Russian military forces in the occupied territories.”

The Georgian MoD also expects continued Russian covert activities and soft power directed against Georgia in order to cause internal conflicts and achieve “controlled destabilization” in the country. The document’s authors expect more attempts to strengthen pro-Russian groups, weaken state institutions and discredit Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy. They also list economic tools among the means Russia can use against Georgia.

Georgian Defense Policy

The MoD’s goal for 2017-2020 is to develop a defense system that will be able to “prevent the enemy from easily achieving his objective” in the case of a foreign aggression against Georgia. The document says that reaching this goal will contribute to the country’s national security in combination with the “diplomatic, economic and informational deterrence factors.”

The SDR envisions the total defense principle to be adopted by the Georgian Armed Forces. It means defense “on the country’s whole territory, with full national effort, employing both military and civilian resource.” The total defense approach also means “continuing resistance through both conventional and non-conventional means.”

The document names reserve and conscription as important elements of the total defense concept that “will support the active component of the Armed Forces during a crisis/war situation,” stressing that the MoD envisions reinstatement of conscription specifically within the framework of the total defense. According to the SDR, the new conscription system will include battle training course for all recruits. As to the new reserve system, it will consist of three parts: army, territorial and specialists’ reserves. 

Air defense is another component of the national defense system designated in the SDR as critically important. The document cites the war of 2008 as an example of inadequacy of Georgia’s air defense and stresses the necessity to acquire modern capabilities in this regard, in order to be able to resist the possible future aggression.

The SDR cites Georgia’s limited financial resources and the necessity to prioritize its defense policies in favor of those that help battle readiness. Gradual restructuring of the military budget in order to eventually reach the NATO standard of no more than 50% spending on personnel and at least 20% spending on weapons acquisition remains a priority. 

The document authors do not expect serious changes in defense spending during the reporting period, saying it will remain within 2% of the GDP. At the same time, the document lists the MoD’s new projects for the coming years that can be financed by the military budget, including: air defense, reserve and mobilization system, transport and attack helicopters, and anti-armor capabilities. 

Cooperation with Georgia’s partners is another priority highlighted by the SDR. The U.S.-supported Georgia Defense Readiness Program (GDRP) is expected to help “strengthened combat capability and increased battle readiness level of the Armed Forces.” The document also states that Georgia will continue to participate in the NATO international missions and military exercises, as well as the NATO Response Force (NRF). Participation in the EU and UN missions is also envisioned in the document.

According to the MoD, the risks to Georgia’s security are “somewhat mitigated” by holding international military exercises in Georgia, including the Agile Spirit, Noble Partner and NATO-GEO EX 16 exercises.

The document also highlights Georgia’s priority to cooperate with the NATO members and partners on the “issues of security and stability in the Black Sea and South Caucasus region.”

National Security Policy Framework

Strategic Defense Review is a component in the system of conceptual national security documents, developed by the Georgian state agencies. 

The primary documents are the National Security Concept and the Threat Assessment. The former states Georgia’s fundamental values and interests, while the latter defines the threats and risks to those interests.

The National Defense Strategy document is designed to respond to the military side of the threats listed in the Threat Assessment. The SDR document then outlines the MoD and Armed Forces development priorities, designed to implement the goals and objectives of the National Defense Strategy.