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Pentagon says the delivery of 26 tons of security assistance to Georgia enhances the capabilities of the country

According to a Department of Defense spokesman speaking to Europetime, the delivery of 26 tons of security assistance to Georgia enhances the capabilities of the country. „The delivery of 26 tons of security assistance to primarily Building Partner Capacity Section 333 Program (10 USC $ 333) funded assistance. There were no significant new capabilities as part of this package. The Building Partner Capacity Section 333 Program has long served to build partnerships with foreign nations by providing military and equipment training to enhance partner nations' capabilities“, - Pentagon says. Georgia receives $11.5 million in equipment from the US. According to the US Embassy in Georgia, 26 tons of security assistance were handed over to the Defense Forces of Georgia. „Today we delivered 26 tons of security assistance to enhance the defensive capabilities of Georgian Defense Forces. This $11.5 million in equipment, is just one way the U.S. supports our strategic partnership with Georgia“, - the statement reads. 

State Department on Reeker's visit: The United States is committed to promoting a democratic and peaceful future for the South Caucasus region

Ambassador Reeker, who was recently named Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations, is currently in Baku where he met on Tuesday, September 13 and Wednesday, September 14 with senior Azerbaijani leaders. Ambassador Reeker met with President Aliyev on Tuesday. According to a State Department spokesperson speaking to Europetime, In all locations, Ambassador Reeker will emphasize that the United States is committed to promoting a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous, and peaceful future for the South Caucasus region. In all 3 countries, Ambassador Reeker is meeting with senior officials to discuss key issues in the region as well as look at pathways to assist partners in engaging directly and constructively to resolve outstanding issues and further regional cooperation. In all locations, Ambassador Reeker will emphasize that the United States is committed to promoting a secure, stable, democratic, prosperous, and peaceful future for the South Caucasus region. On August 24, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointed Reeker the country’s Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations.  US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said at a press briefing on September 7 that Reeker will conduct his first visit in this new capacity to the region. „ambassador Reeker, our senior advisor for Caucasus negotiations, will be traveling to the region this week in what will be his first trip in this new role. This is a first of what we expect to be regular travel to the region. He departs this evening and will be going to Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and in all three countries he’ll meet with senior officials to discuss key issues in the region as well as looking for pathways to assist partners and engaging directly and constructively to resolve outstanding issues and further regional cooperation“, - Patel said.

NATO: LANDCOM officers' visit to Georgia concluded with the signature of a formal agreement by both parties

LANDCOM officers conducted an Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) Advisory Visit (AV) in Georgia (GEO) for their upcoming NATO Led Evaluation, Level 2 (NEL2) happening now. This visit is part of a robust and long standing relationship between LANDCOM and Georgia Land Forces. According to a NATO official speaking to Europetime, NATO Land Component Command (LANDCOM) provided three officers to conduct an advisory visit to Georgia and the visit concluded with the signature of a formal agreement by both parties.  NATO Land Component Command (LANDCOM) provided 3 officers to conduct an advisory visit to Georgia, in preparation for the upcoming second level of the NATO Led Evaluation process (called NEL2) aimed at determining the level of operational capability of a light infantry company from Georgia, which is also listed for NATO's Response Force. The visit occurred from 22 to 26 August 2022. It featured a series of briefings and meetings - including with the Georgian Deputy Chief of Defence - and activities. The visit concluded with the signature of a formal agreement by both parties over a set of Performance Measures against which the second phase of the mentioned evaluation process will be based“, - NATO official said. According to NATO Georgia is a prioritised NATO partner with an infantry company listed for NATO’s Response Forces (NRF).  

The United States is working with NATO allies to support Georgia’s security and defense modernization efforts

EXCLUSIVE According to a State Department spokesperson U.S. security assistance to Georgia has focused on capabilities that improve defense modernization. `Georgia is a highly valued U.S. and NATO partner. The United States strongly supports Georgia’s NATO aspirations and is working with NATO Allies to support its security and defense modernization efforts. The United States also held Bilateral Defense Consultations with Georgia on May 20. „The Georgia Defense and Deterrence Enhancement Initiative (GDDEI) is a formal bilateral effort by the United States and Georgia to continue their strong military-to-military relationship and builds upon the success of the Georgia Defense Readiness Program (GDRP).  GDDEI builds on the progress achieved under GDRP by enhancing deterrence and territorial defense capabilities, fostering interoperability with NATO, and enabling institutional reform and modernization through organizational change management“, - a State Department spokesperson said.  U.S. Department of State: Security assistance to Georgia has focused on capabilities that enhance defense modernization and reforms

U.S. Department of State: Security assistance to Georgia has focused on capabilities that enhance defense modernization and reforms

Pending Congressional clearance, the Department of State intends to provide $35 million in new FY 2022 Foreign Military Financing (FMF). This is the same amount of bilateral FMF Georgia received in FY 2021. As a State Department spokesperson told Europetime, U.S. security assistance to Georgia has focused on capabilities that improve defense modernization.   `U.S. security assistance to Georgia has focused on capabilities that enhance defense modernization and reforms that 1) provide Georgia increased capabilities and capacity to defend its territory and sovereignty, 2) improve training and professionalization, 3) help Georgian forces to work together more effectively with NATO, 4) strengthen maritime domain awareness, and 5) support Georgian participation in coalition operations (of note, Georgia was the largest non-NATO troop contributor to the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan through the 2021 drawdown). These funds will continue to build upon our steadfast security cooperation`, - a State Department spokesperson said.    Georgia has received over $400 million in FMF since 1997.  

Javier Colomina: We are currently discussing what the tailored support should entail for Georgia and we expect them to be adopted at the Madrid Summit

NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, Javier Colomina, answered questions by Europetime about the NATO Summit, NATO-Georgia relations, the Russian war in Ukraine, the accession process of Finland and Sweden, as well as other topical issues. ET: What is your opinion on the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for NATO? In the long run, how do you view these consequences, and how do you see the alliance's relations with Russia in general?  Russia’s aggression against Ukraine represents the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades. It has shattered peace in Europe and is causing enormous human suffering and destruction. We see President Putin concentrating his forces in eastern Ukraine after his failed offensive against Kyiv. Russia is now engaged in a war of attrition, with high numbers of casualties on both sides. The Russian military has resorted to indiscriminate levelling of Ukrainian cities. Schools, hospitals, and residential areas have been flattened and the humanitarian conditions in Russian-controlled areas are dire. Furthermore, President Putin’s war is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilising entire regions. This is cynical and destructive and the costs are being borne by the world’s most vulnerable people. We call on Russia to immediately end its blockade of Ukrainian ports; and Allies are working hard, also with the United Nations, to find solutions. Against this background, NATO continues to pursue two parallel priorities. First, we continue to support Ukraine. On the other, we are making sure that this war does not escalate further into Allied territory, while we keep protecting one billion of our citizens living in NATO countries. NATO Allies have provided support for Ukraine for many years, including with equipment, financial support, and training for tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops. Allies and partners have already provided Ukraine with billions of dollars’ worth of lethal and non-lethal equipment, as well as humanitarian aid. All of this is making a difference on the battlefield, helping Ukraine to uphold its right of self-defence, which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Allies are also providing substantial humanitarian aid, including by hosting millions of refugees.  They are now stepping up further, with many types of light and heavy military equipment. Secondly, we reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with speed and unity, to protect our nations. Over 40,000 troops are now under direct NATO command, backed by major air and naval power. This is to deter further Russian aggression, in other words, aimed not at provoking a conflict, but rather at preventing it and restoring peace. We continue to call on President Putin to stop his war in Ukraine, withdraw his troops and engage in good faith in the diplomatic process. Our relationship with Russia is at its lowest point since the Cold War. We regret this, and it is not of our choosing. Our relationship with Russia was not always like this. The fall of the Berlin Wall ushered a new era of partnership with Russia. For many years, we would discuss our common security in the NATO-Russia Council. We cooperated in areas of common interest, from counter-terrorism to arms control, and we worked closely together in Afghanistan.  Russia chose to walk away from this partnership. The war in Ukraine is part of a long pattern of Russia using military force to achieve its political aims, as Georgians are well aware. ET: As for the status of NATO-Georgia relations and implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, what are the fundamental pillars that the Alliance will use to make future decisions? Has anything fundamentally changed? First of all, the current security environment makes NATO’s partnership with Georgia even stronger and closer. We intensified our dialogue in recent months: Foreign Minister Darchiashvili and Defence Minister Burchuladze participated in various meetings with their NATO counterparts; Prime Minister Garibashvili met with the NATO Secretary General last May; and I visited the South Caucasus last April. We also maintain a strong level of practical cooperation, with the third NATO-Georgia Joint Exercise last March, and many other ongoing activities under the umbrella of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package. Against the backdrop of Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine and of its security implications, including for the Black Sea region, Allies have agreed to step up the scope of practical assistance to Georgia. We are currently discussing what this should entail and I expect that more details will be unveiled at the NATO Summit in Madrid next week. The Georgian government has clearly stated that integration into NATO continues to be a top foreign policy and security objective for the country. This also means that, as I have said at other times, we expect Georgia to redouble its efforts in key reform areas such as the judiciary, media freedom and accountability of the security sector. On our side we stand by our commitments from the 2008 Bucharest Summit on Georgia’s aspirations towards NATO membership. Our support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity - within international recognized boundaries - remains unwavering. We also continue to recognize Georgia’s contribution to our shared security. Georgia has been one of the largest contributors to our missions in Afghanistan and played an important role in the evacuation efforts in Summer 2021. Georgia also participates in the NATO Response Force; and it has recently led a NATO-Georgia exercise, which involved around 600 troops. ET: What system or tool may be put in place to provide tailored support to Georgia in the face of heightened threats? How might the Alliance aim to continue its cooperation with Georgia at a new stage, possibly in a new format? As I mentioned before, in light of the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, Allies have agreed to step up assistance to partners such as Georgia, which is one of NATO’s closest partners and has been subject to Russian hybrid threats and pressure since many years. Rather than establish new tools or systems, we should build on the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package and increase our support to Georgia by in the areas of situational awareness, secure communications, resilience and cyber. We are currently discussing, together with Georgian authorities, what these measures should entail in more detail and we expect them to be adopted at the Madrid Summit. ET: Can Georgia expect any concrete, tangible results from the next summit? What will be the main focus of the summit, and what could you say about Ukraine? We will take important decisions at the NATO Summit in Madrid next week. We will strengthen our deterrence and defence; we will agree to support Ukraine for the long haul; we will agree NATO’s next Strategic Concept, which represents the blueprint for our future adaptation in an age of increased strategic competition with authoritarian powers like China; and we will agree to support further our partners at risk with tailored measures. We will commit to working even more closely with our partners in the Asia-Pacific and other like-minded partners around the world. We will also review progress on burden-sharing, because it is clear we must continue to invest in our defence, and to invest more and better together in NATO. Only North America and Europe, working together in a strong NATO, can keep our one billion people safe in a more dangerous world. The participation by NATO partners will also be a distinctive feature of our Summit in Madrid. President Zelenskyy has been invited to address NATO leaders at the Madrid Summit and Prime Minister Garibashvili will also be invited to participate in one of the sessions, which shows the importance of our partnership. Invitations to participate have also been extended to Finland, Sweden, and the European Union, as well as to  our Asia-Pacific partners Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea. ET: What are your thoughts on the prospects for Finland and Sweden joining NATO? How do you think Turkey's concerns may be addressed before the Summit? The applications by Finland and Sweden to join our Alliance are historical. As NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said, “They send a clear message: aggression does not pay; intimidation does not work; and NATO’s door remains open.”  Finland’s and Sweden’s potential accession to NATO would make both countries safer. It would also make NATO stronger, given that both Finland and Sweden are strong democracies and resilient societies, have considerable military capabilities - including substantial reserves and advanced aircraft and naval forces, all able to work together with NATO – and are long-standing contributors to past and current NATO-led missions (in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, and in Iraq), as well as to NATO and Allied exercises. As the NATO Secretary General said: “We are now considering the next steps on Finland and Sweden’s path to join our Alliance; as we do this, we take into account the security interests of all Allies; when an Ally raises concerns, we address them seriously and we find common ground; so we are now working through Türkiye’s serious security concerns, including on terrorism. Türkiye is an important Ally, with a strategic location, playing a key role in the Black Sea, bordering Syria and Iraq, vital for our fight against ISIS. Türkiye is also the NATO Ally that has suffered more terrorist attacks, including at the hands of the PKK. We are now working together, in a constructive spirit, to find a united way forward. All Allies agree that NATO's door is open, that enlargement has been an historic success, and that we must continue to stand together as we face the greatest security crisis in a generation.” Let me add that from a security perspective, Finland and Sweden are in a better place now than they were before they applied. Many Allies have already made clear commitments to Finland and Sweden’s security; and NATO has increased our presence in the Baltic Sea, including with more exercises; for example, Finland and Sweden have been involved in several Allied exercises in recent weeks, including BALTOPS, bringing together 7,500 personnel from 14 Allies – including from Türkiye. This is a clear demonstration of NATO’s commitment to this region.

MEP Michael Gahler: Reform is a key issue when it comes to the rule of law and the judiciary

EU-Georgian relations and other issues were the topics of the Europe Time interview with MEP Michael Gahler, Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats). „We are open and prepared to support a real reform process. There is an ambition in your country to apply for EU membership that must succeed in line with its development, and I am afraid that recent months have not been very helpful in promoting your case. That is why we appeal to the Georgian partners to assess the situation and seek ways forward in the interest of the country. We are trying to defuse tension and get more constructive and cooperative ways to address issues done in Georgia. We encourage all steps in the right direction. We have undertaken enormous efforts to have the European Council three times in the country and through the Eastern Partnership. It is not usual, but we care. We are concerned, but we are also constructive in our approaches“. As for the association trio countries and their ambition, MEP Michael Gahler welcomes their ambitious agenda but stresses the importance of the reform. „We have a comprehensive framework with Georgia and this is an association agreement and deep and comprehensive free trade area which provides a huge spectrum of integration, cooperation, reform, and the reform is the key issue when it comes to rule of law and the Judiciary. And it is extremely important not only in Georgia but also in other countries in this neighborhood", - MEP Michael Gahler said. As for the EU membership perspective, MEP Michael Gahler mentioned that Article 41 says every European country can become a member, but the approach should be for all those who aspire to membership, to simply work on this huge and comprehensive cooperation agenda. So we are supportive, but all reactions in the wrong directions are not helpful so far last month and the last year's continuing confrontation has not been promoting your case. That is why we, friends of Georgia, are appealing to all stakeholders to get this done together. We are friendly partners“, - MEP Michael Gahler said.

The State Department on "3+3" format: Before launching other platforms for discussion, Russia should concentrate on withdrawing its troops from all countries in the region and contributing to peace

As a State Department spokesperson told Europetime, Russia should focus on withdrawing its troops from all countries in the region and contributing to peace before initiating other discussion platforms.  „We encourage the countries of the South Caucasus to work together to resolve disputes and to strengthen regional cooperation. While outside actors can play a productive role supporting such efforts, they should not try to impose their own agenda on the region. Russia, which is currently waging a brutal war in Ukraine, has killed thousands and displaced millions more. It should focus on withdrawing its troops - from all countries in the region-and contributing to peace before initiating other discussion platforms“, - a State Department spokesperson told Europetime. The next meeting on the South Caucasus issues in the "3 + 3" format (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia - Russia, Turkey, Iran) will be held in the near future, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference after meeting with his Turkish counterpart. "We agreed on how to continue working in the South Caucasus. As you know, a 3 + 3 format was created on the initiative of Turkey. We held the first meeting in Moscow, where Georgian colleagues could not take part, but we emphasize that we will always be happy with their participation. The next meeting is being prepared now, I hope we will be able to announce it in the near future," Lavrov said. Georgia refused to take part in the first meeting, which took place in Moscow on December 10, 2021. EU Spokesperson: We are supporting the three South Caucasus countries, including through the Eastern Partnership Following the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is a landlocked region in southwest Azerbaijan near the southeastern border of Armenia, in 2020 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put forward the idea of launching a six-nation platform that includes the cooperation of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Iran in order to establish stability and peace in the region. Georgia and Russia suspended their diplomatic ties following the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 when it declared the independence of Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) region on August 26, 2008.  

The Commission has started to work swiftly on the opinion and is now assessing all the replies received to the questionnaire by Georgia

EXCLUSIVE The European Commission has started to work swiftly on the opinion and is now assessing all the replies received to the questionnaire submitted to help prepare the opinion—the first part covering the political and economic situation and the second part the other chapters of the EU acquis.  According to a Spokesperson, Ana Pisonero Hernandez, Following the EU membership application submitted by Georgia, the Council has acted swiftly and invited the Commission to submit its Opinion on the application in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties. The Commission will move forward quickly to finalise the Opinion as soon as possible. Decisions on future steps on the EU path will continue to be in the hands of the Member States. As you may have seen, yesterday EU leaders took note of the preparation of the Commission’s Opinions on the application for EU membership of Georgia, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, and will return to this matter at their June meeting“, - Spokesperson said.  

An official says Javier Colomina’s ongoing visit to Georgia is part of regular consultations held by NATO officials with their Georgian counterparts

A NATO official told Europetime that NATO Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, Javier Colomina’s ongoing visit to Georgia is part of regular consultations held by NATO officials with their Georgian counterparts. In addition, it is a reflection of the long-standing and solid political and practical partnership developed between NATO and Georgia. „NATO highly values Georgia’s continued contributions to Euro-Atlantic security. During his visit, Mr. Colomina will meet with a wide range of Georgian civilian and military officials, members of Parliament and representatives of the civil society“, - a NATO official told Europetime. Related article A Nato official says NATO highly values Georgia’s long-standing contributions to Euro-Atlantic security

An official says NATO highly values Georgia’s long-standing contributions to Euro-Atlantic security

A NATO official told Europetime that Mr. Appathurai's recent visit to Georgia was part of regular consultations held by NATO officials with their Georgian counterparts. In addition, it reaffirms that the NATO-Georgian political and practical partnership rests on a very solid track and that NATO highly values Georgia’s long-standing contributions to euro-atlantic security. `Mr. Appathurai’s recent visit to Georgia is part of regular consultations held by NATO officials with their Georgian counterparts. It provided an important platform to reaffirm that the NATO-Georgian political and practical partnership rests on a very solid track and the NATO highly values Georgia’s long-standing contributions to euro-atlantic security. In light of Russia’s unprovoked and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, as NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg has recently said: "NATO Allies have decided to help strengthening the resilience of those partners at risk from Russian threats and interference, including Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina." For Georgia, we could increase our support by building on the substantial NATO-Georgia Package, including in areas like situational awareness, secure communications, and cyber`, - a NATO official told Europetime. During his visit to Georgia, NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, James Appathurai, has met with Georgia’s Parliamentary Defense and Security Committee to discuss cyber and energy security. At a press briefing after the closed meeting, the NATO official said the Alliance has decided to do more for Georgia and other partners in Europe, as Russia’s war against Ukraine fundamentally changed the security map of the continent for the long term. The NATO official said the alliance has certain ideas for the country to bolster its security in that regard, as well as in the context of hybrid attacks and coordinated disinformation. The Deputy Assistant Secretary General expects that by the time of the Madrid Summit in June NATO will have very concrete ideas in place to help Georgia. The official added he also expects Allied Governments to reiterate at the Madrid Summit that NATO’s door remains open to Georgia. But the Allied states also wish to see continued reforms and a less polarized political environment here, seeing government and opposition work together, to see decisions take across the political divide. „Cyber-attacks have been part of Russia’s attack on Ukraine before military hostilities started and throughout military hostilities“, Appathurai noted, adding it has become crucial for Georgia and every NATO country to beef up their cybersecurity. As for energy security, NATO’s Appathurai stressed that Georgia’s role in supply to Europe has only become more important as European countries have cut off a delivery from Russia. In this context, he highlighted the importance of cooperating with Georgia to better secure its energy infrastructure against cyber or physical attacks. A meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs took place at the NATO Headquarters on 6 and 7 April 2022.  “Allies have been doing a lot, and are determined to do more, now, and for the medium and longer term to help the brave Ukrainians defend their homes and their country, and push back the invading forces […] Allies agreed that we should also help other partners to strengthen their resilience. And shore up their ability to defend themselves. Including Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. For Georgia, we could increase our support through the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package. Including in areas like situational awareness, secure communications, and cyber,” stated NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the press conference following the meetings. Ministers also agreed that NATO’s next Strategic Concept, a roadmap for the Alliance’s continued adaptation for the more dangerous and competitive world we live in, must take account of NATO’s future relations with Russia, and China’s growing influence on Allied security. The Strategic Concept will be finalised at the Madrid Summit in June. The 30 Allied Foreign Ministers were joined by their counterpart from Georgia, Ilia Darchiashvili, and from other close partner countries.  

The European Commission has started to assess the replies to the first part of the questionnaire completed by Ukraine

The European Commission has started to assess the replies to the first part of the questionnaire completed by Ukraine, A Commission spokesperson told Europetime   The President of the Commission handed over to President Zelenskyy the questionnaire covering the political and economic criteria on 8 April. The part covering the implementation of the EU acquis was submitted to Ukraine on 13 April. The Commission has started to assess the replies to the first part of the questionnaire, which we received on 17 April. We expect to receive replies to the second part of the questionnaire within four weeks (by mid-May) and we remain ready to support Ukrainian authorities in this important process.   The replies will help the Commission prepare its assessment  of Ukraine’s application in light of the memberships criteria. The questionnaires are internal documents to help the Commission prepare the Opinions, therefore these documents are not published by the Commission. Once adopted by the Commission, the Opinions are made public.  Decisions on the next steps are in the hands of the Council. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen handed the questionnaire to Zelenskiy during her visit to Kyiv on April 8th. Ukraine completed its questionnaire for EU membership on April 18th. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday he had discussed the increase of aid for Kiev with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The parties talked about the increase of security assistance to Ukraine amid the conflict with Russia and the post-war reconstruction, Zelensky tweeted.According to Zelensky he informed von der Leyen about the provision of the completed European Union (EU) questionnaire, which is a step toward Ukraine's EU integration. For her part, von der Leyen tweeted that in their talks, the sides touched upon financial and security assistance for Kiev, and Ukraine's replies to the questionnaire on EU membership.

U.S. Department of State: We are assessing President Putin’s directive and at this time are comfortable with our strategic defensive posture

US officials on Monday called Russian President Vladimir Putin's order to mobilize his nuclear forces "dangerous" but said they had not seen any indication of any change in the country's strategic threat. A State Department spokesperson told Europetime in a statement: „Russia and the United States have long agreed that nuclear use would have devastating consequences, and have stated many times, including earlier this year, that a nuclear war cannot be won, and must never be fought. We think provocative rhetoric regarding nuclear weapons is dangerous, adds to the risk of miscalculation, should be avoided, and we will not indulge in it. We are assessing President Putin’s directive and at this time are comfortable with our strategic defensive posture. Throughout this crisis, Russia has falsely alleged that it is under threat – including from Ukraine and from NATO.   Neither the United States nor NATO has any desire or intention for conflict with Russia. We are unwavering in our commitment to extended deterrence and confident in our ability to defend ourselves and our allies“. Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia's military to put its deterrence forces, which include nuclear weapons, on "special alert". He told defence chiefs it was because of "aggressive statements" by the West, amid widespread condemnation of his invasion of Ukraine. According to BBC the announcement does not mean Russia intends to use the weapons. The US immediately condemned his decision, calling it an "unacceptable escalation".  

EXCLUSIVE: The U.S. along with its allies and partners, is prepared to respond in a coordinated manner if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. State Department says

The US, along with its allies and partners, is prepared to respond in a coordinated and harsh manner if Russia invades Ukraine. A State Department spokesperson spoke exclusively to Europetime about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. On February 11, US President Biden called for all US citizens to leave Ukraine immediately. According to the media, Russia may have decided to invade Ukraine, and this might happen in the next hours. Is there a clear plan in place in response to Russia that was developed with the cooperation and unity of all partners, including the EU, NATO, and the G7? Europetime sent a question to the US Department of State in this regard.  „We are united against what Russian is contemplating and are united in our commitment to impose severe consequences on Russia’s economy, even as each of us makes use of our own authorities and tools to impose them. Look no further than the public comments by the leaders of the G7, the EU, and NATO“, - the U.S. State Department said. Russia could invade Ukraine „at any time“ and American citizens should leave immediately, the US has warned. An invasion could start with aerial bombing that would make departures difficult and endanger civilians, the White House said on Friday. The US statement prompted countries around the world to issue fresh warnings to nationals in Ukraine. The UK, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands are among those urging citizens to leave as soon as possible. However, attempts to deescalate tensions through diplomacy are set to continue on Saturday, with both US President Joe Biden and France's President Emmanuel Macron due to speak to Russia's Vladimir Putin by phone. Moscow has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine despite massing more than 100,000 troops near the border. 

Ambassador Carpenter: If Russia chooses the path of military escalation then we’re prepared to impose what have been described as massive and unprecedented consequences

“U.S. officials say that Russia has two paths.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken describes a path of diplomacy and dialogue or massive consequences.  After this statement and from yesterday’s and today’s meeting, what is your impression?  Which path has Russia chosen?  For example, French President Macron said there are crucial days ahead after the Putin summit. The question of the Europetime was answered by Ambassador Michael R. Carpenter, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).    Ambassador Carpenter: Russia has amassed an unprecedented force on its border with Ukraine as well as in Belarus – well over 100,000 troops on its own border with Ukraine and up to 30,000 troops, if not more, inside Belarus.  It’s armed to the teeth.  It has everything from artillery and attack helicopters to combat aircraft and every manner of enablers that’s poised and ready to attack if the order is given.     So you’d have to ask President Putin what he intends to do next.  We have made clear that we are sharpening the choices for the Kremlin.  We’re offering our preferred path, which is the path of diplomacy and dialogue, including here at the OSCE, but also, as I’ve said earlier, at NATO and bilaterally, and we’re willing to engage on all the concerns that Russia wants to put on the table.  We’re of course going to put our concerns on the table too, together with those of our partners and allies.  But we’re willing to have that conversation in an honest and open manner.      Now, on the flip side, if Russia chooses the path of military escalation – God forbid, but if it does – then we’re prepared to impose what have been described as massive and unprecedented consequences.  And by “we,” I mean not just the United States but the entire G7, the entire North Atlantic Alliance, NATO, as well as the European Council, which has also coordinated very closely with the United States.      So the choice is President Putin’s to make, and I don’t – I can’t tell you what choice he’s going to take.  But that is, roughly speaking, the sharpened choices that we have presented going forward“.    French President Emmanuel Macron has told reporters that President Vladimir Putin assured him that Russian forces would not ramp up the crisis near Ukraine's borders. Russia has denied any plans to invade Ukraine, but it has assembled more than 100,000 troops near its borders. US officials believe Russia has assembled 70% of military forces needed for a full-scale invasion.  President Macron this week is on a diplomatic tour of national capitals. He arrived in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on Tuesday after almost six hours of talks with Mr Putin in Moscow on Monday. At a news conference with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, Macron said there was now the chance to "make these negotiations move forward" between Russia and Ukraine, and that he could see "concrete solutions" to reducing tensions.  Putin hinted on Monday that some of Mr Macron's proposals "could form the basis of further joint steps" - although they were "probably still too early to talk about". US President Joe Biden met the German leader in Washington on Monday and threatened to shut down a key Russian gas pipeline to Germany, called Nord Stream 2, if Moscow invaded Ukraine.Chancellor Scholz - on his first trip to Washington since becoming chancellor and facing criticism for his response to the Ukraine crisis - was however more ambiguous about the pipeline than Mr Biden.

Ambassador John Sullivan: We will await what the Russian Government’s reaction and then I would expect that there would be a phone conversation, or perhaps a meeting

What are the next steps diplomatically? Secretary Blinken said he expects to speak to Foreign Minister Lavrov in the coming days and is ready to discuss new steps. What should be these steps? The question of the Europe Time was answered by John J. Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation. „Well, we will await the Russian Government’s response to the written document that I delivered on Wednesday. The Russian Government also received from NATO a written response from NATO to the draft treaty that Russia presented in mid-December through us, through the United States when Assistant Secretary Donfried and I met with Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov. So we will await what the Russian Government’s reaction and assessment is to our written responses, and then as Secretary Blinken noted, I would expect that there would be a discussion, a phone conversation, or perhaps a meeting – I don’t know; that hasn’t been agreed to. The Secretary, Secretary Blinken, has used both formats to communicate with the foreign minister, many phone calls and a number of meetings over the last year. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened in relatively short order, but that depends on the Russian Government, its response to the documents that the United States and NATO submitted and when they would like to resume discussions. We certainly hope that they will do so. As I said at the outset, our preferred path is diplomacy and we believe the document that we submitted on Wednesday lays out a path to diplomacy and a de-escalation of this situation“, - Ambassador John J. Sullivan said.

Javier Colomina: The NATO-Georgia Exercise 2022 will also provide a platform to test and consolidate the Georgian Defence Forces’ ability to perform crisis management tasks

The NATO-Georgia Exercise 2022 provides an opportunity for NATO allies and partner countries to share experience, skills, and know-how with the Georgian Defense Forces, as well as to further develop their command and control capabilities and ability to operate effectively alongside forces from other NATO member and partner countries. The exercise will also provide a platform to test and consolidate the Georgian Defence Forces’ ability to perform crisis management tasks, - NATO Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, Javier Colomina, said in a comment to Europetime.  „Georgia is one of the Alliance’s closest partners and continues to benefit from both political and practical support from NATO. Among others, practical cooperation includes working together with the NATO Command Structure in order to strengthen Georgia’s defence capabilities and interoperability with the Alliance. Thanks to this cooperation - which has over the years been further bolstered through the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package - Georgian Defence Forces are more capable and NATO interoperable than ever before. NATO Joint Force Training Centre (JFTC) has been providing support to the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (JTEC) since 2016. JTEC provides training and evaluation to Georgian and international forces aimed at enhancing Georgia’s defence capabilities, increasing its interoperability with NATO, and contributing to strengthening regional and international security. As such, the NATO Joint Force Training Centre, together with LANDCOM, has been supporting JTEC in preparing and conducting the NATO-Georgia Exercises. The NATO-Georgia Exercise 2022 constitutes an opportunity for NATO Allies and partner nations to share experience, skills and know-how with Georgian Defence Forces and to further develop their command and control capabilities and their ability to operate effectively alongside forces from other NATO member and partner countries. The exercise will also provide a platform to test and consolidate the Georgian Defence Forces’ ability to perform crisis management tasks, through a comprehensive approach based on cooperation with a range of civilian and military actors, including international organizations and non-governmental organizations. This exercise is a routine multinational crisis response exercise that takes place every three years. The NATO-Georgia Exercise 2022 is conducted transparently, in close cooperation with NATO structures, according to NATO procedures and with full respect of international obligations“, - Javier Colomina said. Georgia will host the 2022 NATO-Georgia Exercise for the third time in March, with the defence manoeuvres set to be led by the Georgian Defence Forces and involve alliance and partner countries, the defence ministry announced on Tuesday.

President Tokayev won, but he owes his position to Russia - Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili Associate Professor

Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili Associate Professor, Director of the Center for Governance and Markets sums up the developments in Kazakhstan in an interview with Europe Time. What outcomes have the country, how did the internal power struggle end, and how are the interests of this or that country expressed there. These issues are being discussed in an interview with Jennifer Brick Murtazashvili whose field of activity includes Central Asia, among other areas. ET: In your opinion, what is the current state of influence in Central Asia? The US has no clear strategy in Central Asia. Right now, it is not clear what US interests are. So, since the US withdrew from Afghanistan, it is not clear what US policy is or what US strategy is. Both Russia and China have a strong mutual interest in Central Asia. This is not a competing interest; they have a mutual interest. Russia is providing security, and China is providing infrastructure and economic development. So the division of neighbors seems to be between Russia and China. ET: Experts point to the internal struggle: what brought the protest and what was its origin? This was a protest about internal issues that started out as a peaceful protest over energy prices. President Tokayev called on Russia to protect and help his position because he did not trust the security services. The security services were under the control of Nazarbayev. So, we saw some kind of little struggle between Nazarbaev`s people and the Tokayev`s people. And they took advantage of the protests to side with one another. ET: What was the outcome? The result is that Tokayev won. He took control of the security services. He invited Russia to strengthen his position. Now he is moving Nazarbaev's family members from different positions of power. They control a lot of wealth and resources. Kazakhstan is a country of oil and gas, and the Nazarbaev family has been appointed to many different positions. This means that Tokayev has put his people in, but he is now dependent on Russia. So, Tokayev called for CSTO or Russian troops. NowTokayev is in charge, but he owes his position to Russia. ET: When we talk about the `outcomes`, the increasing influence of Russia has probably become even more visible. Yes, absolutely. Russia's influence is increasing in Central Asia. They have seven thousand troops in Tajikistan, several hundred troops in Kirgistan, and are already in Kazakhstan. I do not think that Russia was looking for this opportunity. It was unexpected, but the withdrawal of the United States now creates competition, and Russia and China quickly feel the space left by the US.

Russia may use its forces to play muscles to raise the political stakes in negotiations - Hanna Shelest

Tensions over Ukraine are getting worse. Experts discuss the real danger of conflict. The world awaits written responses from the US and Russia to their suggestions, while intelligence services from several countries point to the Kremlin's clear plan to destabilize Ukraine. According to reports, the British government received information on the Russian government's plans to establish a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv. In an interview with Europe Time Hanna Shelest, Director of Security Programmes at Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” discussed Ukraine's expectations and topics on how they analyze threats. ET: Let me start with the Associated Trio, as this was a topic you and your coworkers were discussing. Why is this format so crucial right now? It is an important issue from a political point of view because it is always easier to advocate for some changes or positions when it is not just one country. A louder voice and a strong position are important and need coordination. All three countries have association agreements. We have ambitions for EU integration, but at the same time, we have very practical issues to move forward in relations with the EU, such as roaming-free agreements, open sky, etc., that can be promoted. And also, we have our individual tracks. In addition, these states are sharing threats and risks inside the country as well as external threats. When we have three presidents coming and talking, it definitely has more value and more power in Brussels than single approaches. In some ways, it also reminds many European countries of the Visegrad countries' path, with similar goals and decisions. So, for some Western European countries, it is certainly a positive reminder of that path of European integration, and it can help in promoting A3 integration. ET: The context is critical right now, especially in light of the ongoing processes in Ukraine. The countries are continually threatened by Russia. The question is how the countries share the perceptions of threats. And how they see their future. Moldova is a neutral country. Ukraine and Georgia would like to become NATO members and are searching for a NATO mechanism for protection and cooperation, while Moldova has its cooperation with NATO at a certain level. As a result, three countries see this format of the Association Trio as promoting political and economic stability rather than security issues. Perhaps when we discuss security concerns such as resilience, cyber issues, or critical infrastructures, those issues can be considered in relations with the EU? Hard security and conflict are not topics for which the European Union is ready to work at the same level as these countries would like to. ET: Special attention is being paid to Ukraine right now, where there is an unprecedented concentration of Russian forces along its borders; your colleagues also mentioned the danger of conflict; you represent this country (Ukraine), and I'm concerned about your view. The risk of war has been high for eight years. The question is that now the scale of the Russian build-up is much greater than before. At the same time, they may use these forces to play muscles - to raise the political stakes in negotiations. So they bring in more forces and more strategic weapons just to demonstrate that they are serious about their request. So, in this way, we should not be panicking. We must be determined to protect ourselves and maintain contact with our allies in order to send a signal to Russia that we are not alone. ET: What's your opinion about the accelerating membership process of NATO in the face of Russian aggression? The problem is that we still have the biggest fear of many European countries that do not support the immediate membership of Ukraine and Georgia that, by this act, they would provoke Russia. They are afraid to give us MAP for fear of being attacked. But Russia is already considering NATO as a threat, and it has already provoked the conflict in Europe, and many raise a question, will it act like this if Ukraine and Georgia have had the membership action plans. Ukraine and Georgia should use each of their opportunities to increase practical cooperation. It does not matter how we name them, MAP, or annual national plan. What is important is the substance, to speak about the real plan of cooperation that will be on a level that we have never had before. I mean, to be almost members in terms of cooperation without formal membership. But at the same time, we are consistent in our statements about why we would like to have a membership, and it is not just protection from Russian aggression, as we are ready to contribute to Euro-Atlantic and European security. That is why many countries are waiting for us to be more than just security consumers; we need Article 5, but we also want to be security providers for other European countries. ET: What are your expectations from the talks between the US and its allies and Russia? We definitely expect at least a decrease in escalation and build-up at the Ukrainian border. We don’t believe that Russia will give up or that NATO will accept the Russian ultimatum. But if the level of tensions decreases and the conflict moves to the negotiation table, that will already be a good result. However, we do not have high expectations. Russia needs these talks both for domestic propaganda to show that they decide the future of Europe just between Moscow and Washington, as it used to be in Soviet times. And also, for international narratives promotion, making partners choose the side and some European states doubting whether Russia has reasons to behave like this.

Whether or not Putin succeeds with this kind of illusionary ‘grand power’ scheme depends a lot on the developments at the Ukraine border - Professor Klaus Larres

The US is planning to transfer Mi-17 military helicopters to Ukraine. Earlier, Ukraine received 90 tons of lethal weapons from the US. The Baltic States sent US-made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine. The United States and NATO partners will conduct a 12-day maritime exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, beginning Monday, US Department of Defense spokesperson John Kirby said on Friday. The maritime exercise, called "Neptune Strike '22," will run through February 4 and is meant to demonstrate and test NATO's maritime capabilities, according to Kirby. Russia is also set to hold maneuvers at the same time. The announcement came just hours after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in a bid to de-escalate tensions surrounding fears that Moscow might be preparing to invade Ukraine. Klaus Larres, professor at the University of North Carolina, spoke to Europe Time about what to expect from the discussions between the US, its allies, and Russia, whether they have a chance, and what purpose they serve. ET: How do you evaluate the dialogue between the US, its allies, and Russia? It is a very crucial time and I think we should not be discussing just relations between the United States and Russia, like during the cold war, but Europe should also have a role. The European Union should be a number three partner in these talks. Of course, when we talk about Ukraine, you really need to involve the Ukrainians themselves. If Georgia were on the agenda, it should be a part of the discussion too. But certainly, the EU should be a part of them. ET: What perspectives do you see from these talks? We don't know whether Putin ever expected something to come out of these talks, but refusing to engage in talks would look bad to the international community and the Russian public. The same applies to the U.S. and their public. Neither Putin nor Biden could not engage in discussions. Of course, the West should try to talk to Putin and Russia, but whether it is productive in the end is difficult to say. Last week was not productive; both sides have certain viewpoints, and they didn't move at all on them. ET: If the talk was a non-starter from the beginning, where should we look for its purpose? In the eyes of both international and domestic public opinion, I believe the US had no choice but to engage in negotiations with the Russians. I think the same applies to Putin. He probably needs an excuse if he really wishes to invade Ukraine. Then he can turn around and say "See, I tried to talk to them, I tried to have negotiations but this dialogue was in vain, they did not wish to make any concessions." This would be his justification for claiming to have done his best to make an invasion unnecessary. As the talks were unproductive, despite his allegedly best attempts, he will claim that he had no choice but to embark on some sort of new invasion of Ukraine. ET: Do you see the risk of war? Yes, I think there is a real risk of war, unfortunately. It will be difficult for Putin to say, after his tough rhetoric and his many demands that have not been fulfilled, "I massed over 100.000 troops at the border of Ukraine, I deployed 1500 tanks and much ammunition and other heavy weapons, at a great cost to the Russian economy, and now I just withdraw them again without having realized any of my demands." To the Russian public, this would appear to be a disaster. This would not look like Putin as a strong man and a powerful man. That would look like Putin as a weakling, and we know Putin hates looking weak. So he has to do something, and if the talks remain stalled, the only option he has is either a full invasion or a hybrid invasion, cyber warfare that has already started, or maybe some partial occupation of Ukraine. But it is unlikely that he will just withdraw and say, "I just wanted to talk and now I am going back home without having achieved any concrete results." This is unlikely. ET: What does this signal for Georgia? I think other countries, like Georgia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and other neighboring states, will view Putin’s actions very carefully. And Putin knows that. He wants to put his foot down and claim that there is a Russian sphere of influence and that he is not flexible about it. He wishes to reestablish Russia as a powerful geopolitical player; he wishes to increase and maintain Moscow’s global influence. What is happening in Ukraine is clearly intimidating other countries in the Russian neighborhood, including Georgia. They will be even less inclined than they are already to pick a fight with Putin. I believe the Georgian government tries to steer a very carefully calibrated course toward Russia. It does not want to be too friendly, but it does not wish to be too unfriendly toward Moscow either, despite Georgia’s serious territorial conflicts with Russia. And that is probably the lesson for many countries to learn: „you have to make peace with Russia to some extent and you need to find some sort of friendly accommodation with Moscow or you will have serious problems“, - And this is the lesson Putin wants to convey. This is certainly the lesson Putin wishes other countries to learn and then stick to – „There is a Russian sphere of influence – essentially the territory of the former Soviet Union - and all the countries in it have to consult closely with Moscow and in the last resort have to accept Russia’s wishes“. Whether or not Putin succeeds with this kind of illusionary ‘grand power’ scheme depends a lot on the developments at the Russian/Ukraine border and how the US and the EU countries are dealing with the crisis and whether or not they are standing up to Putin’s aggressive behavior.