Russia on Wednesday called the Georgian army’s military exercises with the U.S. and Britain “a provocative step.”
About 500 Georgian soldiers joined nearly 650 U.S. and 150 British soldiers for war games at the Vaziani military base near the Georgia capital of Tbilisi, Reuters reported. The U.S. used its entire mechanized unit in the drills, including eight Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and eight M1A2 Abrams battle tanks.
Despite Russia’s Defense Ministry warning Georgia the drills could destabilize the region, Georgia Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli told Reuters the exercises were an important event.
“This is one of the biggest exercises that our country has ever hosted, this is the biggest number of troops on the ground, and the largest concentration of military equipment," she said.
Georgia Prime Minister Georgy Kvirikashvili reassured Russia in a statement that the exercises weren’t meant to be directed at anyone nor was there any “trace of provocation.”
The U.S. has backed Georgia and hopes that it might decide one day to join NATO – a move that Russia opposes.
Russia and Georgia went to battle in a short war in 2008 over the South Ossetia region. Moscow continues to fortify the region and support Abkhazia, another area looking to break away from Georgia.