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Georgian army: business is above all

24.12.2012 09:46

For the second month running Georgia remains a leader of scandalous news in the world media space. Reports relating to the military sector have a special place in this stream of news.

The new authorities when investigating government officials' abuse of power under Mikhail Saakashvili have revealed a number of suspicious transactions to acquire weapons for the Georgian army. Thus, at the end of this November, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said the public prosecutor's office will take up the case of acquisition by the former leadership of the Ministry of National Defense, of the old-style Kalashnikov guns. The contract was awarded in the amount of 42 million lari ($25 million), which ten times exceeds the real value of the acquired weapons.

Corruption in the Georgian army has been long talked about, but with the change of power in the country, this issue has become particularly acute. Because, you know, contrary to the former Georgian leaders' statements of widespread rooting out corruption, this phenomenon has become the prerogative of the upper strata. Scarcely Irakli Alasania took office of Ministry of Defence of Georgia, speaking about the lack of transparency in tendering and procurement, when he called the Defense Ministry a "nest" of corruption. Apparently, the Kalashnikov guns transaction excellently proves his words. The new authorities are not able to identify all participants in the transaction, even the country selling of obsolete weapons remains unknown.

Military analysts can only assume that any of the states of Eastern Europe getting rid of old arsenals can act as a gun dealer. It is extremely significant when in 2004, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, purchased from Ukrainian Ukrspetsexport government campaign 40 units of infantry fighting vehicles (BMP-2) totaling 6 million 800 thousand dollars. Already in September 2005, during a large-scale military exercise 38 of 40 units of BMP-2 broke down.

These are not isolated cases of "mutually beneficial deals" with kickbacks to Georgia's top leadership, suffice it to mention the contract for air defense systems supply. In early 2005, the Ukrspetsexport GC and the Ministry of Defence of Georgia signed contracts for delivery to Georgia of OSA-AKM and BUK-M1 air-defense missile complexes after having been repaired in Ukraine and 36D6 radar that can be used in conjunction with modern air-defense missile complexes and systems, including the modern S-300 air-defense missile system.

It's no easy thing to play a blame game in the circumstances. Most supporters of Mikhail Saakashvili, who held leading positions and were involved in such transactions, are now in hiding. The last pro-presidential Minister of Defense Dmitri Shashkin after October elections hastily moved with his family to the United States. However, D.Shashkin's predecessor in office, Bacho Akhalaia is under arrest.

Although he has not been charged with any questionable procurement of arms, he is imprisoned also on military case. Former minister is accused of beating soldiers. According to Georgia's new Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili, six soldiers, the alleged victims of beating, have complained against Akhalaia, former Chief of Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, Brigadier General George Kalandadze and commander of the Georgian army's elite 4th brigade Zurab Shamatava. As follows from the text of the complaint, in October 2011 Akhalaia, in the presence of Kalandadze and Shamatava in his office "committed verbal and physical abuses upon six soldiers, and also hit one soldier with the handle of a knife on the head." Then the victims were taken to the Vaziani military base and were subjected to new abuses there.

It is significant that Georgian soldiers today are not spared not only at home, but also at the front of NATO. Georgia's losses during the operation of the alliance in Afghanistan have reached 18 people killed. Two Georgian battalions are deployed in one of the most volatile provinces - Helmand. However, the Ministry of Defence is proud of the participation in the wars for the interests of other states and says that from the countries not members of NATO, Georgia is the largest contributor to the international operation in Afghanistan. Saakashvili keeps up with it and once said the soldiers sent to war with the Taliban "at the risk of their lives get the experience that is a prerequisite for the strengthening of our country".

In October, Georgia increased the number of its troops in Afghanistan by another 600 people. According to the military department, currently the number of Georgian troops, members of the International Security Assistance Force, is about one and a half thousand military men. Commenting on the almost double amplification of the group, the Georgian MFA in answer to journalists' questions on reasonability of this event said "it is necessary for the coalition, it is necessary for all neighboring states to prevent Afghanistan from turning again into a hotbed of al-Qaeda, terrorism, and a giant drug trade."

It is hard to believe in the Georgian leadership's sincerity of concerns about the fate of the people of Afghanistan. Most probably the country's participation in these wars is just a profitable enterprise for its leaders. For food for powder "made in Georgia" its Western friends are willing to generously pay in the form of "aid for development of the armed forces". Weapons purchases by the Georgian authorities at fabulous prices fit into this concept too. With this approach, it is not surprising that at the sight of a serious opponent the Georgian military prefer to flee under various pretexts. And sometimes, surpassing all expectations. Perhaps someone is just afraid of losing his lucrative business?