Noble Partnership Multinational Military Exercises in Georgia
The Noble Partner 2020 exercises began in Georgia on September 7 and concluded on September 18. Over 2,700 troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Poland, and Georgia are participating in the exercises hosted at the Vaziani Military Airfield and Camp Norio in eastern Georgia. This is the fifth iteration of the Noble Partner exercises held biennially in Georgia. Noble Partner 2020 includes situational training exercises, helicopter attack and medical evacuation operations with rotor-wing aircraft, combined mechanized maneuvers, and live-fire exercises incorporating all participants.
The U.S. Embassy in Georgia stated that the exercises were modified with coordination from the Georgian Ministry of Defense to ensure the safety of participants due to COVID-19. Other pandemic-related measures were taken such as requiring all participants to undergo COVID-19 testing and a 14-day quarantine. According to the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, the objective of Noble Partner 2020 is to “enhance regional partnerships and increase U.S. force readiness and interoperability in a realistic, multinational training environment.” The continuation of such multinational exercises “demonstrate that NATO allies and partners stand stronger together with U.S. commitment to stability and security in the region.”
Georgia sees the multinational U.S.-Georgian led military exercises as an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to its partnership with the United States and NATO. Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani emphasized the importance of the exercises against the background of hybrid threats, and expressed hope that creating a NATO-compatible defense force and continuing close cooperation with Georgian partners would bring Georgia closer to Alliance membership. President of Georgia Giorgi Gakharia emphasized the integral role that Noble Partner plays in Georgian Euro-Atlantic integration, and Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said the exercise is “clear proof that military cooperation between Georgia and the United States has never been as strong as it is today.” U.S.-Georgian relations remain strong; the United States has invested over $4 billion in the development of Georgia since its independence and regularly holds joint exercises.
In recent years, Georgia has made changes to its military in order to adhere more closely to Western standards. In 2017, the length of military service was cut from 15 months to 12 months. Conscripts would undergo three months of combat training and then spend the remaining nine months in “support the professional army.” In June 2020, the Georgian Ministry of Defense announced that it would be replacing old hardware used by the Georgian Defense Force with NATO-standard hardware. In particular, the Ministry announced that it was aiming to equip all regular units with American designed M4 rifles which are used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Similarly, outdated trucks were replaced by trucks made by the German company MAN, the Italian company IVECO, and the U.S. company Ford; all of which supply NATO states. Georgian military reforms and materiel modernization demonstrate Georgia’s readiness to work with NATO and its partners and its willingness to take the steps needed for NATO to consider membership.