Parliament approved on July 15 a proposal to increase the personnel cap on the Georgian armed forces from the current 32,000 to 37,000 and also supported to increase defense spending by additional GEL 295 million.
According to the Ministry of Defense, there are currently 28,991 servicemen in the armed forces, including 366 civilians.
Givi Targamadze, a lawmaker from the ruling party, who chairs the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said on July 15, the move was motivated by three reasons.
“The first and major reason – and no one should have any illusion about it - is extremely increased threats,” MP Targamadze said. “Threat assessment has showed that threats have increased and reached its critical level after Russia’s aggressive actions. This decision to increase number of troops is an adequate reaction to the existing threats.”
“Today Georgia faces the highest level of threat since independence,” he added.
The second reason, MP Givi Targamadze said, was Georgia’s commitments to continue contributing to Iraqi mission.
MP Nika Rurua, the deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said earlier that Georgia’s participation in the international operations “should not take place at the expense of [defending against] internal Georgian threats.”
Georgia has 2,000 soldiers deployed in Iraq.
MP Givi Targamadze said that the third reason was Georgia’s aspiration to bring its military infrastructure and troops closer to NATO standards.
He also said that Georgia has “the smallest, but the best trained armed forces in the region.”
Georgian Deputy Defense Minister, Batu Kutelia, said on July 14 that additional 5,000 servicemen would join various military units, but the priority would be to reinforce air forces and navy with highly-qualified personnel.
Pavle Kublashvili, a senior lawmaker from the ruling party, said that the increase in number of troops no way meant that Tbilisi was gearing up for use of force to regain control over the breakaway regions.
“Everyone should know that our priority is our peace initiatives, but at the same time we are ready for any type of scenario and ready to respond to any type of provocation staged by the aggressors,” MP Kublashvili said.
Also on July 15 the Parliament approved amendment to the 2008 state budget, which among other things, also envisages increase of defense spending up by GEL 295 million, bringing total funding of the Ministry of Defense to GEL 1.395 billion this year.
Lawmakers from the ruling party justified increase in defense spending again by external threats, in particular Russia’s moves in respect of breakaway regions.
MP Nika Rurua, the deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said earlier this month that enhancing Georgia’s air defense and naval capabilities was one of the major priorities of the increased funding. He pointed out that purchase of air-defense systems and aircraft were planned.