The Price of Army Boots


Thousands of apologies for my poor lore in all matters military, but I have rich enough intuition, sharp enough sense of judgment and enough general education to reason about things that are not organically close to me but I am still concerned about.

The Soviet Empire of the recent past comprised fifteen national republics, each having its own heraldic symbols, anthem and constitution. A couple of them even enjoyed an independent vote in the United Nations. The republics were like countries with the right to leave the Union any time they wanted – thus it was written in the main law of the land. They made certain decisions independently from Moscow -- the center of centers -- but there were three untouchably sacred fields that no republic was allowed to operate independently from the Kremlin – defense, foreign affairs and foreign trade. All soviet citizens served in one strong and copious armed force – the Soviet Army.

But behold, the Soviet Union collapsed and the republics became genuinely independent. They have been operating as such since the breakup of the famous and powerful USSR. Among many other features and attributes, national independence means maintaining an army. The same is true with Georgia – it has an army- functional armed troops with a mixture of hired professionals and regular recruits! The state budget figures are public and I will not waste time on quoting the numbers, descriptive of Georgia’s military parameters. To put it in a nutshell, our taxpayer is spending copiously on this part of the Republic’s life.

What I would love to focus on is only one rhetorically asked question – what do we need the army for? Remember, I apologized for my ignorance in military arts. So please let me continue with my naiveté, if you will. And again, what do we need the armed forces for? Don’t get easily upset please – this is not a parliamentary resolution to ban the army in Georgia. This is just a freewill question of another brash local journalist, nothing else! As I understand, armies per se are created for two reasons: one to attack and the other to self-defend. I don’t think Georgia wants or needs or dares to attack anybody, so the first function is nullified.

The second military function of defense raises the eyebrows somewhat. Are we talking about defense from Russia? How do we want to defend ourselves from Russia? Using what means? The limited conventional ones we currently possess? God forbid but if an armed conflict takes place, will Russia ever surrender and meekly let us celebrate victory which will end in a pompous military parade on our hardly-a-kilometer Rustaveli Avenue? What if Russia gets angry and beats us up black-and-blue so badly that we never again recover from the bruises and shame! How about Turkey? Can we fight Turkey if this good neighbor ever decides to attack our borders? Hardly! Azerbaijan? Armenia? Who? Maybe some nuclear powers that someday have a sinister vision to annihilate Georgia from the surface of the earth? Call it my pacifistic philosophy if you wish, but I can hardly believe that Georgia will ever be able to cope with any serious military confrontation if such confrontation occurs at some point in time. I know that Georgian young men and women are serving in international military missions, and I understand the importance of that kind of undertaking. They need to be trained somewhere. Who says no?!

There might also be a third army function that I have missed accidentally. And that could be a function of keeping our own people in peace and obedience. Who knows what might happen if the public fury enhances to the extent of breaking all the shackles that were cast for keeping us at bay – then the army might play its peacemaking role. This was one of my little stupid jokes! This kind of a thing will never happen here, will it? So, should the Georgian army remain as it is? Of course, but one for which the maintenance and training makes absolute sense for this not overly rich nation.

Nugzar B. Ruhadze

21 January 2016 22:07