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Georgia linked to Nato early warning system
« on: September 06, 2008, 12:25:20 AM »
Georgia linked to Nato early warning system
Michael Evans, Defence Editor

Nato's early-warning surveillance system has been plugged into Georgia's air-defence network in the first evidence that the US-led alliance is shoring up the country's shattered military.

Alliance officials said that the arrangement enabled Nato radar specialists to be linked up to the Georgian radar systems. “It means Nato can now see what the Georgians are seeing through their radars, effectively allowing the alliance to monitor what is going on over Georgian airspace without having military assets in place,” one official said.

After the war in Georgia last month and the continuing occupation of parts of the country by Russian troops, the move underlined the intention by Nato to provide assistance to the Georgian military.

A Nato official said that the combined air surveillance arrangement had been negotiated before the crisis in Georgia. The technical switch-on, linking radars in Georgia to Nato, happened this week however.
“The joint system was negotiated under the Partnership for Peace scheme Nato has with Georgia, but clearly we have a new context now,” the official said.

Although the Georgian air-defence radars are Russian-made, the officials said that technical experts for Nato had found ways of linking them to the air surveillance system of the 26-member alliance. It does not mean, however, that Nato Awacs aircraft can be linked to the radars.

During the fighting some of Georgia's radars were damaged in bombing raids. The Georgian armed forces, however, have mobile systems and many of them escaped Russian airstrikes.

In the months leading up to the doomed military operation to seize control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, Russian fighter jets had flown into Georgian airspace on several occasions.

With the surviving ground radars linked to Nato, 24-hour monitoring of Georgian airspace will now be possible in the same way that Italian or Spanish radars are automatically plugged into the Nato air surveillance network.

Alliance sources said that proposals were currently under discussion to fly Nato Awacs over the region, although they emphasised that no decision had yet been taken on such a development, which would be viewed as provocative by Moscow.

As part of efforts to develop closer military ties with Georgia the US is also planning to set up a trust fund into which alliance members can donate money to assist Georgian military forces. “It's basically Nato passing the hat around,” an official said.

A Nato team of specialists has visited Tbilisi to find out what Georgia needs to rebuild its forces. Washington dismissed the claim by Moscow that the US warships sent to Georgia to offload tonnes of humanitarian aid had been delivering arms secretly.

“The thrust of Nato's efforts at present is to help Georgia get through the winter, preventing Russia from strangling the country. We've got to try to keep the democracy in the country going, but there's no talk about accelerating Georgia's application to join Nato as a member state,” one official said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence in London said: “In light of recent events, Georgia needs time to reflect on requirements for the future. We intend to provide assistance to Georgia and will consider requests for assistance in discussion and co-ordination with our Nato and EU partners.”



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