U.S. Destroyer Anchors Off Georgia
- By Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili
- Jul. 15 2009 00:00
The destroyer USS Stout entering Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi on Tuesday ahead of joint naval exercises.
BATUMI, Georgia — A U.S. warship anchored off Georgia’s coast for joint military exercises Tuesday while Russian jets pounded mock targets nearby in a sign of lingering tensions over Georgia.
The guided missile destroyer the USS Stout on Tuesday anchored off Batumi, where its captain, Commander Mark J. Oberley, was welcomed ashore with Georgian music and wine. The Stout is the sixth U.S. warship to visit Georgian ports since the war.
“This visit and the combined training demonstrate the U.S. and Georgian commitment to work together, to cooperate and maintain maritime security,” Oberley said.
Two vessels of the Georgian coast guard are to participate alongside the USS Stout in Wednesday’s drills in Georgian territorial waters between the ports of Batumi and Poti.
Georgian Navy Commander Beso Shengelia said the small-scale exercises would involve averting a sinking after a hull breach, capturing a hostile boat, and joint maneuvers in conflict situations.
A couple of hours after the events in Batumi, President Dmitry Medvedev peered through binoculars to watch jets fly over the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk and fire at nonexistent ground targets. He was shown on state-controlled television.
The U.S. and Russian maneuvers marked a stark change in tone from meetings last week between Presidents Barack Obama and Medvedev, who expressed hope for repairing relations that have sunk to a post-Cold War low.
Hopes have risen in recent months that the U.S.-Russia tensions that led up to the Georgia war last August would be defused under the new U.S. administration, but recent events in and around Georgia’s mountainous lands suggest the two sides are still deeply divided.
The forthcoming naval exercises in Georgia and the Russian Air Force drills take to at least four the instances of cooperative military maneuvering in territory adjacent to the conflict zone since the five-day war.
Russia voiced outrage in May over NATO drills near Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, equating them to foreign interference in Georgia’s domestic affairs. Russia promptly conducted its own exercises on a much larger scale near the Georgian border earlier this month. Those exercises ended on Obama’s first day in Moscow, July 6.
Medvedev, meanwhile, on Monday made his first visit to South Ossetia since the war — a visit cast by Moscow as a show of solidarity for locals under perpetual threat of a new Georgia attack.
Georgia, which called Medvedev’s visit a provocation, insists that South Ossetia is under Russian occupation.