A U.S. guided-missile frigate docked in Georgia on Thursday for joint training exercises next week in the Black Sea, along the coast from where Russian troops are setting up a base in the rebel region of Abkhazia.
The former Soviet republic fought a five-day war with Russia in August 2008 that helped drag U.S.-Russian relations to a post-Cold War low under then President George W. Bush.
In the weeks after the war, several U.S. navy ships, including the guided-missile destroyer McFaul, docked in Georgia to provide aid, angering Moscow which accused Washington of sending weapons.
Relations have improved under the U.S. administration of Barack Obama, but Russia remains sensitive to military cooperation between the West and U.S. ally Georgia, whose NATO membership ambitions were dealt a severe blow by the war.
The USS John L. Hall docked in the port of Poti, some 50 km (31 miles) from the de facto border with Abkhazia and 130 km (81 miles) from Ochamchire, the Abkhaz town from which Russian coastguard ships patrol the territory's sub-tropical coastline.
Commander Derek Lavan said the purpose of the visit was to "reaffirm relations between the United States and Georgia", and to train the Georgian coastguard in firefighting, basic law enforcement, the boarding of ships and basic security.
An official at the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi, who declined to be named, told Reuters it was a "regular port call" designed "to enhance Black Sea security". The ship will move to the town of Batumi on Friday and exercises next week will last until Mar. 4.
In August 2008, a Georgian assault on the breakaway territory of South Ossetia after days of skirmishes with rebels and years of rising tension with Moscow drew a crushing Russian counter-strike.
The Kremlin recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states in late August 2008, their de facto borders controlled by Russian security forces.
The Georgian coastguard last year seized several Turkish-operated ships trying to trade with Abkhazia, drawing threats of retaliation from Russia.
Abkhazia signed a deal last week to allow Russia to build a military base for at least 3,000 troops on its soil. A naval base is also planned in Ochamchire.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili last week criticised French plans to sell a Mistral class helicopter carrier to Russia, and the United States has also expressed concern.
ReutersLast Mod: 26 Şubat 2010, 08:16