TBILISI (RFE/RL)—An Armenian army platoon is taking in part in U.S.-led multinational military exercises that began in Georgia on Sunday.
The two-week drills taking place at the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi involve about 2,800 soldiers from the United States, Georgia, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Slovenia and Armenia. The U.S. contingent includes several M1A2 Abrams battle tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles making up a mechanized company.
“The exercise affords participating nations an opportunity to train in a multinational environment while enhancing cooperation and interoperability,” U.S Army Europe said in a statement on the drills codenamed “Noble Partner.”
“These exercises will help Georgia to get closer to NATO standards and to strengthen stability in the whole region,” Reuters quoted Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili as saying at the opening ceremony.
The exercises began a day before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Georgia. Pence plans to attend the drills and address participants on Tuesday.
The Russian government did not comment on the event as of Monday afternoon. It had criticized previous U.S.-led war games held in Georgia.
The participation of 30 or so Armenian servicemen in the drills highlights Armenia’s desire to complement its military alliance with Russia with closer security ties with the West. The South Caucasus country has deepened defense cooperation with the U.S. and other NATO member states since the early 2000s. It currently contributes more than 100 troops to NATO-led missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan and regularly participates in multinational exercises organized by the U.S. military.
Nevertheless, the alliance with Russia remains the bedrock of Armenia’s national security strategy. Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian underlined this fact on Saturday when he attended the opening ceremony near Moscow of the 2017 International Army Games partly hosted by Russia.