Arms sales to Georgia? Completely false, Pentagon says
Citing anonymous “sources in Russian secret services,” the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported Tuesday that the Obama administration had “expressed its readiness to supply to Georgia ... tens of millions of dollars worth of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.”
It said “such promises were given by Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Georgia’s State Minister for European Integration Georgy Baramidze during his visit to Washington in December last year.”
According to Itar-Tass, “the deliveries -- in accordance with current U.S. practices -- were to be made through third countries.”
The Moscow-datelined report got prominent coverage on Russian television as well as Web sites dealing with Eurasia.
But a Pentagon spokeswoman emphatically denied the report Thursday.
“The reports of U.S. arms sales to Georgia via third countries are completely false,” Navy Cmdr. Wendy L. Snyder, a Pentagon spokeswoman responsible for defense policy in the region, said in response to a query. She referred the question of whether the U.S. is “ready” to sell the arms to Georgia to the State Department.
The State Department had earlier referred a query to the Pentagon. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Some analysts speculated that the Russian report was timed to raise suspicions about the visit to Washington this week of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. On Wednesday he met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
McCain, who as recently as December reiterated his support for U.S. for arms sales to Georgia, did not respond to a request for comment.
But the EU also said, "Russia's invasion of Georgia after the attack was illegal and unjustified and that Russian-backed Ossetian militias conducted ethnic cleansing of Georgian villages," The Post reported.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia argued last year that arms sales to Georgia would upset the U.S. “re-set,” or rapprochement, with Moscow, according to a State Department cable recently released by WikiLeaks.
| January 13, 2011; 7:45 PM ET
Categories: Foreign policy, Intelligence, Military | Tags: Mikheil Saakashvili; Sen. John McCain
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