US to Spend $4.3 billion to Counter Russia Aggression

TBILISI - The United States will spend $4.3 billion in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in 2017 to combat Russia’s aggressive behavior in the region, the White House announced in a press release on February 11.

According to the White House statement, the decision comes as a response to Moscow’s increasingly confrontational and bellicose approach to its neighbors, most of who were once Russian imperial dominions.

The White House said the funds will be spent on shoring up the US’ political, economic and diplomatic leverage in the region.

The funds also provide for increasing military support to the countries most at risk from Russia’s aggressive posturing.

Known as the European Reassurance Initiative, the plan will enable the US to expand its number of military exercises and training, sustain a larger continuous rotational presence in Eastern Europe, enhance its preparedness to reinforce NATO allies through the prepositioning of equipment and build the defensive capacity of partner states in the former Soviet Union to enhance their inter-operability with the US military and NATO in order to strengthen regional security.

“This will include bolstering our capabilities across the region to counter Russian aggression, with a particular focus on Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova,” the White House document says.

At an August 2015 meeting between Georgia’s Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the US announced plans to allocate $20 million dollars to assist in the development of Georgia's armed forces.

“This includes more U.S. troops in Georgia, more support to the Georgian army, Georgian defense and security in order to be ready for all the challenges that exist in our region – that’s the main pledge of this partnership. Every day brings more progress and results in this regard,” said Kidasheli.

Over the last decade Russia has invaded and effectively occupied whole swathes of Georgia and Ukraine. Tbilisi’s brief five-day war with Moscow in August 2008 led to Russia recognizing the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Moscow has since stationed thousands of troops in the two disputed regions and continues to financially and diplomatically support the rebel governments in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali through heavy subsidies, state pensions and the issuance of Russian passports to local residents.

Russia’s invasion and military support for radical separatist movements in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and eastern Donbass Region has killed more than 10,000 people since open hostilities broke out in April 2014, following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich.

As tensions with the West have increased due to the on going war in Ukraine and the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia as a result of its annexation of Crimea, Moscow’s armed forces repeatedly violate the airspace and territorial waters of Baltic neighbors Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – all NATO and EU members with significant Russian-speaking minorities.

By Tamar Svanidze

Edited by Nicholas Waller

22 February 2016 18:46