The U.S. and Georgia-led Agile Spirit 2021 military exercise was officially wrapped up at the Orpholo training area near southern town of Akhaltsikhe on August 6.
President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava, Defense Minister Juansher Burchuladze, as well as foreign diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan attended the closing ceremony.
“The dynamics and scale of multinational military exercises in Georgia confirm the importance of our country in the process of strengthening and maintaining security and peace in the region and on the Black Sea,” President Zurabishvili addressed the participants of the drills.
She said “Georgia is still faithfully and tirelessly striving for its chosen goal, that of NATO integration,” adding that “on this difficult and responsible path, cooperation and interoperability with North Atlantic Alliance members, our partner countries, is of paramount importance. ”
On his part, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said regular conduct of Agile Spirit and Noble Partner drills shows Georgia-U.S. strategic and military partnership is at the highest level.
This is the tenth Agile Spirit exercise hosted by Georgia. Launched in 2011, the drills were an annual U.S. Marine Forces Europe exercise between the U.S. and Georgian forces. But since 2018, it transitioned to a biennial U.S. Army Europe and Africa exercise, to be held on every odd number year.
This year, about 2500 troops from fifteen NATO members and partners – Georgia, the U.S., the UK, Ukraine, Poland, Romania, turkey, Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Azerbaijan, Spain, Canada, Italy and Lithuania – participating in the drills between July 26 – August 6.
The exercise was held amid criticism from Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov claimed on July 29 the drills were “another proof” that NATO and its military infrastructure “has come in contact” with Russian borders.
Responding to the Kremlin, U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan said today “NATO has been exercising in this region for over 10 years..[…]… So, there is nothing new or different.” “This is the normal and necessary training that militaries need to do to ensure interoperability, to ensure that they have the defense capabilities they need to deter aggressors.”
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