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Georgia Launches Military Drills With U.S., British Troops

  • RFE/RL's Georgian Service

Georgia has launched joint military exercises with the United States and Britain.

The drills, dubbed Noble Partner 2016, "represent a continuation of the right policy that we pursue toward NATO," Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said at the opening ceremony on May 11. "Georgia will definitely become a member of NATO."

Russia has described the exercises, which will end on May 26, as a "provocative move" by NATO aimed at destabilizing the Caucasus region.

Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008 and Russia backs the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the Russian-Georgian border.

Some 500 Georgian, 650 U.S., and 150 British troops are taking part in the exercises.

Georgia's Defense Ministry said the main goal of the operation is to increase the ability of Georgian forces to work as part of a NATO response force.

On May 5, U.S. tanks and armored personnel carriers arrived in the Black Sea port of Poti to take part in the drills, the first such deployment of U.S. military hardware in Georgia.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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