Forces: Georgia Bulks Up To Face Russia


October 1, 2006: Georgia (the country in the Caucasus) is undertaking a major expansion of its armed forces. Officially, the active forces are about 26,000 troops, already up from about 12,000-14,000 just a couple of years ago. Unofficially, the government has raised strength to about 28,000. This was done by adding more professional troops and increasing the order-of-battle by two battalions of conscripts. It appears that the government wants to increase the active force to about 35,000. In addition, Georgia had begun to build a reserve force.
Until a couple of years ago the "reserves" constituted the entire body of conscripts discharged over the past 15 years. But this pool, of about 250,000 men, was just that, a pool. The "reservists" were not subject to periodic refresher training, and so no more than perhaps 10 percent of them could be considered useful in the event of activation. Beginning a couple of years ago, Georgia instituted a more rigorous reserve training program. An active reserve has been created, which apparently numbers about 10,000 men, and is expected to grow to as many as 100,000 over the next few years, as conscripts (drafted at 18 to 18-24 months) leave active service, and enter 5-10 years of reserve duty.
While Georgia doesn't have the money for modern equipment (it's stuff is mostly Russian Cold War vintage), it does have enough professional soldiers from the old Red Army, and a military tradition going back centuries. Much to the discomfort of Russia, the United States has been supplying Georgia with military training and some equipment. Partly, this is in response to Georgia's sending of 800 peacekeepers to Iraq.
The principal reason for the military build-up is the existence of secessionist regimes in two provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. There are also some 6,000 Russian troops, leftovers from Soviet Union era garrisons. Georgia has been trying get all the Russian soldiers out since the Soviet Union collapsed (and Georgia became independent once more) in 1991. But the Russians have come up with a long string of excuses for delaying a final pullout. To make matters worse, some 2,500 of those troops are "peacekeepers" in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. To most Georgians, the Russian peacekeepers are there mainly to keep the rebel regions free of Georgian control.




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