US defence chief in Georgia for military talks


US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Georgia Monday on the first leg of a visit to three allies on the Black Sea, aiming to deliver a message of support against threats from Russia.

The first Pentagon chief to visit since 2014, Austin will seek to renew a military training programme and demonstrate America’s commitment to Tbilisi, which has sought for years to become a full member of NATO.

“We are reassuring and reinforcing the sovereignty of countries that are on the front lines of Russian aggression,” a senior US defence official told reporters ahead of the trip.

Russian troops are stationed in two Georgian breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and Moscow opposes any move to elevate the country’s NATO status from partner-state level to full member. —AFP


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