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TBILISI, July 15 (Reuters) - Georgia's parliament unanimously approved an increase of 5,000 soldiers and a 26.8 percent rise in military spending on Tuesday, days after Russia's air force admitted to flying over Georgian airspace.
Georgia has a long-term plan to strengthen its military, in part to promote its bid for NATO membership. But the latest expansion comes against the backdrop of heightened tension with Russia over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
If proof were needed of the significance of the crisis facing the troubled Caucasus state of Georgia, it came yesterday with the start of exercises involving 1,000 US troops.
US officials insist the long-planned wargames have nothing to do with the recent dispute between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But they give Washington a chance to support pro-west Tbilisi at a critical time.
The West must confront Russia to prevent another conflict from breaking out in the Caucasus, the President of Georgia has told The Times.
Mikhail Saakashvili said that elements in Russia were intent on provoking trouble in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and compared Europe’s response to the failures of appeasement in the 1930s.