NATO's plan to hold military exercises in the former Soviet republic of Georgia is seen by Russia as an Alliance effort to interfere in Georgia's internal affairs. Involving some 900 service personnel from 23 NATO member and partner nations, the Cooperative Longbow/Lancer - 2009 drills, an itiative of the Alliance's Partnership for Peace program, will be held at Vaziani military base. The exercises are designed to improve interoperability between multinational troops.
Dmitry Rogozin told RIA Novosti on Apr 14 that the exercises were an attempt to prop up pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and a challenge to the newly independent South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He also claimed that Russia would be forced to react. According to Interfax, Russia demanded on Apr 16 that NATO call off the exercises, which it said could undermine its efforts to rebuild ties with the Western alliance. NATO's offer of eventual membership for Georgia has angered Moscow, which sent troops into Georgia in Aug 2008. Georgia has been on the boil because of mass protests by opposition parties to Saakashvili's leadership. He has lost popularity because of the country's economic woes and because of its disastrous war with Russia in South Ossetia, which, with Abkhazia, has since declared its independence. Apr/09
Date written/update: 2009-03-06