Georgia-NATO Training Facility Opens at Krtsanisi

Georgia and NATO are closer than ever before. August 27 saw the unveiling of the Georgia-NATO Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC) at the Krtsanisi military base outside Tbilisi. The JTEC will be used to train troops from Georgia, NATO member states and the Alliance’s non-NATO partners. Exercises are scheduled to begin in 2016 and will initially be led by six NATO officers and eight officers from the Georgian military.

The facility opens in Georgia as part of the “substantial package” offered at the Wales Summit in September 2014. Its significance is both tangible and symbolic. It will help upgrade the capabilities of Georgia’s armed forces while further affirming the country’s status as a key non-NATO ally.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg heralded the opening of the facility but, in typical NATO fashion, made no comments regarding Georgia’s prospects for joining the Alliance in the near future. “With the inauguration of the Joint Training and Evaluation Centre, our cooperation will grow deeper,” he said, adding that “NATO will be more present, in Georgia, and we will be more visible in Georgia.”

Georgian leaders expressed major optimism about the JTEC. President Margvelashvili used lofty rhetoric at the unveiling ceremony, stating that the JTEC’s purpose is to train Georgian soldiers to “defend freedom and those values that make us united.”

Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli placed the JTEC in context of Georgia’s NATO membership aspirations: “Georgia’s choice is more than clear – we aspire towards membership in the family of democratic, developed, stable and peaceful countries… Expansion of NATO expands freedom… NATO brings peace.”

Both Georgian and NATO officials have stressed that the facility is not directed against Russia or any other country. Russian officials predictably responded to the JTEC’s opening with outrage, however. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova called it a “continuation of the Alliance’s provocative policy” and said that it “will become a serious destabilizing factor for the security in the region.”

Zakharova also accused the West of “dragging Tbilisi into NATO” and said that it was largely to blame for the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

Joseph Larsen

03 September 2015 21:28