The Pentagon said on Friday it would build more military capabilities of Georgia and Baltic states bordering Russia to ready them for Afghanistan occupation, a move that could raise alarm in Moscow.
The Pentagon announcement came on the same day U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sealed an agreement on a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty that they are to sign on April 8 in Prague.
In notifications sent to Congress, the Pentagon said military assistance programs for Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Croatia and Hungary were designed to build their capacities "to conduct stability operations alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Russia defeated Georgia's military bid to retake a pro-Moscow region from rebels in a five-day war that rekindled tension between the Kremlin and the West.
Russia has since accused Washington of re-arming the Georgian "war machine." Due to the sensitivities, Pentagon officials have said they have consulted with Russia about the military programs with Georgia.
Despite efforts by the Obama administration to shore up relations with Russia, tensions remain, including over France's recent decision to sell an advanced warship to Moscow.
Russia asked to buy the 21,300-tonne, Mistral class warship to modernize hardware that was exposed as outdated during its war against Georgia.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates protested the sale during a recent visit to Paris, arguing that it could stoke tensions with key U.S. allies, especially Georgia.
The Mistral is an amphibious assault ship able to carry helicopters, troops, armored vehicles and tanks.
The Georgia-Russian region is viewed by the West as a vital energy transit route from the Caspian to Europe.
Along with the programs for Georgia and the Baltics countries, the other military programs to be led by the Pentagon are designed to help Yemen and the Philippines battle militants.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 27 Mart 2010, 10:03