Georgia begins U.S.-led military exercise, angering Russia

By Reuters - Nhung Nguyen   May 11, 2016 | 06:15 pm PT
The biggest NATO-led military exercise in Georgia for some time - 'Noble Partner' - is held at a military base outside the capital Tbilisi.
The NATO Response Force (NRF) is a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force that the Alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed, according to NATO.
But the exercises went down badly in Moscow where the Russian Foreign Ministry last week warned they could destabilize the region, a charge denied by Georgian officials.
"These exercises are not directed against anyone. There is no trace of provocation," Georgia's Prime Minister Georgy Kvirikashvili said in a statement.
Russia defeated Georgia in a short war in 2008 over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, and Moscow continues to garrison troops there and to support another breakaway region, Abkhazia.
The exercises were run out of the Vaziani military base near Georgia's capital Tbilisi.
Russian forces used to be based there until they withdrew at the start of the last decade under the terms of a European arms reduction agreement.
The United States has spoken favorably of the idea that Georgia might one day join NATO, something Russia firmly opposes.
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