“The United States values Georgia as a strong strategic partner,” and remains “unwavering” in its support for “Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” declared U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on his recent trip there.
Over the last three years, the Georgia Defense Readiness Program has built Georgia's defense capacity and readiness, but it is set to conclude at the end of the year. The Georgia Defense and Deterrence Enhancement Initiative will take its place, announced Defense Secretary Austin:
“We are going to build upon the Georgia Defense Readiness Program by continuing institutional reform in the defense sector by strengthening the capabilities and the capacities required for effective deterrence and defense, by fostering interoperability with NATO, and modernizing and developing the Georgian Ministry of Defense and the Georgian Defense Forces.”
“The success of this initiative will require close cooperation between our countries so that we stay on track toward our common goals,” said Defense Secretary Austin:
“The memorandum of understanding that the Minister and I just signed. . .underscores the Department of Defense's enduring policy of helping Georgia to defend itself, to deter aggression, and to further its Euro-Atlantic integration. At the same time, the Georgian government must do its part by leveraging U.S. support to strengthen Georgia's democracy and to make fundamental reforms to bring Georgia even closer to the West.”
Defense Secretary Austin also thanked the Georgian government and people for their support of U.S. and NATO efforts in Afghanistan. Georgians played an outsized role in this mission, bravely serving shoulder to shoulder with their American comrades in arms. The nation paid a heavy price with 32 killed in action and 293 wounded in Afghanistan. The United States honors their sacrifice, and is grateful to the Georgian people, the troops who served, and their families.
“Our collective effort in Afghanistan,” said Defense Secretary Austin, “is a testament to the strength of our strategic partnership and our shared interests and values.”