U.S. To Boost Georgian, Baltic Militaries For Afghan Campaign

WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — The Pentagon has announced that it will fund programs in Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, and Hungary to help build those countries’ military capabilities for the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Details on how much each country will receive were not released. The Pentagon has some $350 million available in the part of its budget set aside for countries that need help developing their counterterrorism activities, conducting stability operations, or assisting U.S. forces.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the new funding would help prepare the six nations to “conduct stability operations” alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The announcement came just hours after the United States and Russia agreed to cut their stockpiles of nuclear warheads by nearly a third under a successor agreement to the expired Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

The deal was hailed by U.S. officials as an important step in efforts to “reset” relations with Russia but areas of tension remain between the two countries.

Additional U.S. support for the Georgian military could anger Moscow, which has accused Washington of re-arming the Georgian “war machine” in the wake of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

Last August, the United States resumed combat training of Georgian forces in preparation for counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan.

Georgia has sent some 170 troops to Afghanistan and plans to send nearly 1,000 additional forces this year.

Pentagon officials said they have consulted with Russia about U.S. military cooperation with Georgia.

Friction between the United States and Russia surfaced just last month after NATO member France agreed “in principle” to sell Moscow as many as four Mistral-class assault ships.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has argued that the sale could increase regional tensions between Russia and key U.S. allies, including Georgia and the Baltic states.