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Cohen, Shevardnadze Sign Cooperation Agreement

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 1997 – Without America's technical and humanitarian aid, the newly independent nation of Georgia, nestled among the Black Sea, Russia and Turkey, would not have survived.

That's the message Georgian President Eduard A. Shevardnadze carried to the Pentagon July 18. Meeting with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, Shevardnadze further strengthened his country's bonds with Uncle Sam by agreeing to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and increase military relations.

Extending the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to Georgia will ensure the former Soviet state remains "a sturdy brick in the wall holding back the spread of weapons of mass destruction," Cohen said. The program has already significantly helped reduce nuclear arsenals in Russia and Ukraine, according to DoD officials.

During its 2,500-year history, Cohen said, Georgia has often suffered under oppression and tyranny. "Now Georgia is embracing its new-found independence and is reaching out to join the community of free nations. With ready hands, the people of Georgia are setting about the hard work of making democracy work."

Shevardnadze welcomed the agreement and stressed his nation is interested only in military cooperation aimed at peaceful and democratic world development. "Whatever our cooperation may be in the field of military technical assistance, it will never be directed against any country," he said.

Georgia's military force of 12,000 to 15,000 conscripts serves under a unified command structure that answers to elected civilian officials. State Department officials say, however, there is no professional NCO corps, few trained junior officers and little transport, supply or communications capability. The force is plagued by desertion problems, poor discipline and equipment shortages. Georgian leaders are working to improve their military through membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace.

Georgia is a member of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and Georgian forces participate in partnership activities and other military exchange programs, including the U.S. International Military Education and Training program. These programs help nations modernize their militaries to become compatible with NATO forces. Partnerships are also evolving between Georgia (the country) and the U.S. National Guard from Georgia (the state) and the U.S. Coast Guard.

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