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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tbilisi Ups Defense Spending

TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia's parliament on Wednesday boosted defense spending by more than one-quarter to raise its army to NATO standards and show a strong face amid deteriorating ties with Russia.

Deputies passed a government proposal to boost the 2007 military budget to $723 million, or 7.2 percent of the gross domestic product. It was part of a larger deal boosting overall state spending by $259 million.

The hike follows deepening tension between Georgia and Russia over a series of diplomatic spats, including Tbilisi's accusation last month that a Russian jet dropped a missile on Georgia. Russia said Georgia fabricated the incident.

Georgian authorities say they need the extra cash to speed up military reforms required to join NATO and to strengthen their defensive capabilities.

Earlier this month, Georgia's parliament passed a plan by President Mikheil Saakashvili to boost the army to 32,000 men, from 28,000, citing rising "threats from abroad."

Saakashvili, who came to power on the back of 2003 Rose Revolution street rallies, has pursued policies aimed at joining NATO and the European Union.

That has irked Russia. Ties between the two states are at their lowest point and have been exacerbated by unrest in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway Georgian regions where analysts say tension is strained to the breaking point.