US Suspends Military Drills with Georgia Amidst Diplomatic Tensions

The indefinite postponement of ‘Noble Partner’ wargames comes a month after Georgia adopted a controversial ‘foreign agent law’

The US has put this year’s ‘Noble Partner’ military exercise with Georgia on hold, citing a “comprehensive review” of relations between the two countries. The military drills, which have involved troops from numerous NATO member states, have been held annually since 2015.

In early June, the legislation – officially titled the Transparency of Foreign Influence Act – came into effect after the ruling Georgian Dream party overrode a veto by President Salome Zourabichvili. This law mandates that NGOs, media outlets, and individuals receiving over 20% of their funding from abroad register as entities “promoting the interests of a foreign power” and disclose their donors. Non-compliance will result in a fine of up to $9,500.

Critics of the bill, who denounce it as an attack on democracy, have staged several protests. Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze maintains the legislation is similar to laws in many Western nations and aims to improve transparency.

The passage of the law has drawn condemnation from both the US and European Union. Washington has announced plans to restrict visas for Georgian politicians who supported the legislation.

In a press release issued on Friday, the US Department of Defense announced that the “United States will indefinitely postpone this iteration of exercise NOBLE PARTNER in Georgia, originally scheduled for July 25 – August 6, 2024.”

According to the statement, the decision was made “due to the Georgian government’s false accusations against the United States and other western entities.” The Pentagon specifically cited several remarks made by Prime Minister Kobakhidze in recent months.

In early May, the official claimed that “two revolution attempts of 2020-2023 [were] supported by the former US ambassador.”

Later that month, he reinforced these accusations, stating that “Georgian-American relations need to be reconsidered.”

Speaking to Georgia’s Channel 1 around the same time, Kobakhidze alleged that “some people want muddy water here… people want a second front [against Russia]. We don’t want a second front.”

In light of these allegations, “the United States Government has determined that this is an inappropriate time to hold a large-scale military exercise in Georgia,” the Pentagon’s press release concluded.

Commenting on the adoption of the ‘foreign agent’ law in Georgia in early June, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller warned that the developments “fundamentally alter the US relationship with” the South Caucasus nation, which has long been seeking to join the EU and NATO. The official emphasized that Washington “would not hesitate to impose” sanctions on Tbilisi.