Saturday, February 7, 2009

Georgian Military Reform-An Alternative View

By Robert E. Hamilton

Center of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

February 6, 2009

Recently, there has been a series of articles and opinion pieces decrying the poor state of the Georgian armed forces on the eve of last summer's conflict with Russia and arguing that Georgia's military failures could complicate or altogether preclude further U.S. military assistance to Georgia as it attempts to recover from the war and continue its drive to integrate with Euro-Atlantic security structures. Largely based on a leaked classified report written by a team of officers from U.S. European Command and sent to Georgia after the war, these articles and opinion pieces maintain that serious problems remain in Georgia's armed forces. They claim, paraphrasing the leaked report, that the Georgian armed forces are overcentralized, prone to impulsive decisionmaking, undermined by unclear lines of command, and led by senior officials who were selected for personal relationships rather than professional qualifications.

The authors of these pieces furthermore claim that Georgia?s military lacks the elements of a modern military bureaucracy, ranging from a sound national security doctrine to policies for handling classified material to a personnel management system. Concluding that these factors contributed to Georgia's defeat in the August war with Russia, the authors contend that the flaws exposed in Georgia's military will make it more difficult for the Obama administration to embark on a program to continue building capacity in Georgia?s armed forces to prepare them for eventual NATO membership, especially given the certainty that doing so will further anger Russia. I served as the chief of the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation in Georgia from 2006 until 2008, and I can verify that many of the criticisms in the article are valid. That does not, however, mean that these articles or the report on which they are based provide a valid basis for either assessing Georgia's ability to continue military reform or enhance its readiness for NATO with future U.S. assistance. Additionally, although they sometimes make reference to the fact that Georgia has made leadership changes in the Ministry of Defense since the war, they fail to appreciate the significance of these changes. To put the state of Georgia's armed forces in proper context, we need to understand three things: the progress they have made since the beginning of meaningful U.S. assistance in 2002; how the Georgian armed forces compare to other military forces undergoing fundamental reforms while faced with serious security threats; and the extent to which the loss of the war with Russia has served as a catalyst for change in the Georgian military.
The full article is here

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