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Posted at 7:45 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Arms sales to Georgia? Completely false, Pentagon says

By Jeff Stein

The Defense Department is knocking down a report from Moscow that the Obama administration is on the verge of resuming arms sales to the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

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.

The Obama administration has refused to sell arms to Georgia, which provoked the 2008 Russian invasion, according to an investigation by the European Union.

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.

By Jeff Stein  | January 13, 2011; 7:45 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence, Military  | Tags:  Mikheil Saakashvili; Sen. John McCain  
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Comments

For a moment I thought the State of Geogia, USAQ, which already has enough arms in private hands.
The Georgia in the Caucases has traditionally been a French protectorate, who in WWI thought it was a good idea to defend Christians in the Ottoman Empire (leading, among other things, the the so-called Armenian Genocide.)
For those who look beyond the superficial, the basic fact is that Geogia is a Christian state, and South Ossetia (like North Ossetia) is Muslim turf. Have we not learned that is it not a bad idea to keep those folk apart politically? Those who were raised in the Cold War tradition keep trying to see this as an extension of Cold War politics, rather than an attempt to sort out (perhaps heavy-handedly) the mistakes of Soviet administrative bureaucrats who thought the USSR would never end, and so administrative lines of the republics really did not matter.
It might seem that anti-tank weapons are defensive, not offensive weapons. Something, perhaps, to remind the Russians that going into ethnic-Georgian areas might not be a cake-walk. While all the time denying that we are thinking any such things.
Before standing on soap boxes, might be a good idea to look at pre-1917 Georgian history. Its a mess. Its been 2000 years in the sorting out; nobody wins. Play in that ballfield if you like, but play carefully. Neither the US nor the Russians have a clue what to do; Georgians have always been just Georgians.
And yes, wasn't Stalin from there?

Posted by: DCNative41 | January 14, 2011 3:05 AM | Report abuse

I noticed that they deny selling weapons to the Georgia but I wonder if they are giving any away so they could deny arming a person who speaks perfect hebrew and I read was probably going to be very helpful to Israel in attacking Iran. So the question is asked is our boys in Washington starting another shooting war? The present denial sure does not sound like we are standing and watching events.

Posted by: tomofsnj | January 15, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

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