The large-scale exercises, which took place in and round the Vaziani military base outside the capital Tbilisi, involved of 1,300 Georgian troops, 1,170 U.S. troops, and a combined 500 from 11 other countries. In addition to Georgia, non-NATO participants included Ukraine, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, all of which were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
The exercises took place over the first two weeks of August, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Georgian-Russian war. Speaking at the closing ceremony, Georgia’s Defence Minister Levan Izoria reiterated that Georgia wants to return the territories recognized as Georgia, namely the breakaway states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, only by peaceful means.
Russia held its own military exercises at the same time.
Russia began the military exercises on Aug. 1 and ended on Aug. 17. The tactical exercise comprised of 6,000 servicemen, land, air, and water units. Approximately 2,000 pieces of military hardware was used, TASS reported.
The drills that took place in Russian regions include Volgograd, Rostov, Kuban, Stavropol, and Crimea. The North Caucasus Adyghea, North Ossetia, Dagestan and Ingushetia.
While NATO and the non-NATO countries were training together in Georgia, Russia was also running military exercises right next to them in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
South Ossetia in particular has a very sensitive relationship with Georgia and Russia.
South Ossetia’s Independence From Georgia
Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected as the president of Georgia in 1990, running with the slogan “Georgia for Georgians,” wanted independence from the USSR.
While still a part of the USSR, South Ossetia sought unification with North Ossetia, autonomy from Georgia and to remain with the Soviet Union. Georgia declined and in response banned all South Ossetian political parties from parliamentary elections in 1990.
To boycott Georgia’s elections, South Ossetia had its own elections in the same year, which had no legal foundation in Georgian law and therefore there was no recognition of its independence, Human Rights Watch reported.
The USSR sent its soldiers to South Ossetia to help maintain order and the Georgian government viewed this as Russian meddling. When Georgia demanded Russia withdraw its troops and replace them with the Georgian military, the Russians ignored it.
When a civil war broke out in South Ossetia in 1991, tens of thousands of people died. A ceasefire was agreed upon in 1992.
Georgia Fights to Take Back South Ossetia
When President Mikheil Saakashvili won the election and took office in 2004, he made his intentions clear that wanted to restore Georgia’s original territory.
“We will be free only after the most beautiful flag in the world will be hang over the Roki Tunnel and Psou,” said Saakashvili, referring to the flags of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Civil.ge reported.
On Aug. 8, 2008, Georgia led a sustained artillery attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. Russian armed forces assisted South Ossetians and pushed the Georgians back, they continued to attack the Georgians long after they retreated.
An independent investigation report (pdf) by the Max Planck Institute blamed Saakashvili for going to war with South Ossetia in 2008, but they also questioned whether the Russians took self-defense too far.
“It seems that much of the Russian military action went far beyond the reasonable limits of defense. This holds true for all kinds of massive and extended action … ”
The conflict resulted in heavy losses on both sides.
“At the end, the Georgian side claimed losses of 170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians killed and 1,747 wounded. The Russian side claimed losses of 67 servicemen killed and 283 wounded.”
Reuters contributed to this article
From The Epoch Times