Tbilisi’s arms struggle

During a visit to Paris June 7-8, the Georgian president Mikhail Saakachvili presented several requests for military materiel. Paris is currently negotiating the sale of four Mistral class amphibious assault vessels and is therefore less well disposed to sell arms to Georgia than it was three years ago (see p.5 ). In 2007, France was ready to sell Gowind corvettes to Tbilisi as well as ground-to-air and anti-tank missiles.

Israel, which was Georgia’s principal supplier of arms until the conflict with Russia in 2008, has also stepped back from its former client and prefers dealing with Moscow. Last year, the Israeli defence ministry authorised Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to sell four drones, along with a ground station, to the Russian frontier police for $50 million (IOL 610 ). Moscow is currently negotiating the acquisition of several other drones from IAI. The Kremlin has another efficacious means of bringing pressure to bear on Israel: the sale of the S-300 ground-to-air missile to Iran, a deal that is frozen but that could be reactivated at any moment.

Ukraine, the last country to have sold military materiel to Georgia, has had a pro-Russian president since the election of Viktor Yanukovych in February, and it has since cut off relations with Tbilisi. Last year, Kiev was still in the throes of negotiating the sale of Osa and Buk ground-to-air missiles, Kolchuga-Mradar systems and BTR-70DI armoured transport vehicles.