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D. Shashkin: We do not want anything that belongs to others, but we will not give what belongs to us

By Mirian Bokolishvili
Georgia Online, 23 August '12

Four years have passed after the Russian military aggression in 2008. Georgia commemorates Remembrance Week. How does the Minister of Defence evaluate four year ago events, and what is new Defence Strategy? "Georgia Online" offers an exclusive interview with Dimitri Shashkin to "Prime Time" agency.

- Mr Minister, of course I would like to start our conversation with August war ... 4 years have passed since the end of military aggression. What would you say, as Defence Minister, after 4 years from the tragedy?

- Assessment is very simple, but also very painful and difficult. In 2008, against Georgia was committed open military aggression, which resulted in loss of approximately 20 percent of our land, which is occupied at the moment. Even now Russian troops are in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region and continue occupation policy . It was a war that was in no way provoked by our side. It was quite clear invasion, which was carried out by the Russian Federation against our country.

- After 4 years from the events, is there any risk of repetition?

- As long as we have very difficult neighbor who is absolutely unpredictable, our main objective is always to be ready for total defence. We do not want anything that belongs to others, but we will not give what belongs to us.

- As for the strategy of the Ministry of Defence ... What are the priority issues on which you would focus on?

- The vision has already been published, which is based on the so-called 3 T concept: Total Care, Total Training and Total Defence. Our main slogan is “No man gets behind in peace or in war” This refers to the general population, and of course to the soldiers, corporals, sergeants, officers and their families. When we talk about total care, this includes the army, military personnel, their families, and we guarantee that the Georgian army will always be by the side of people.

- What is the total care of the soldiers? What will be the social guarantees?

- Based on this concept, we have developed a very good package, which we offer to all military personnel. There are number of incentives for the soldiers to be more focused on the performance of the duty, and to feel that the government is taking care of them and does everything to protect their families from problems.

The first incentive is health sphere. From 2013 we will launch a new insurance package that will cover all military servicemen and their families. It is very important for us to let all soldiers know that state takes care of their families. In addition, enterprises that exist in the system of defence, for example, the company "Delta", will transfer 20 percent from profit to the referral fund, which was created specifically for military personnel and their families. Anything that will not be covered by insurance will be funded from this fund.

The other incentive is state funded education. From 2013 if you do not obtain state grant for studding in the University we propose to refuse compulsory military service delay, which is given to all students automatically, if a person serves in the army for one year and then State will cover 4 year bachelor degree education. Or simply saying: For one year military service, you get 4 years of your university fee.

As for those military personnel who are currently serving in the Armed Forces as contractors, in terms of education they are given certain privileges. In particular, if you are serving 16 years and have signed 4 contracts, State will entirely cover your children’s’ bachelor degree education. In case, you have signed the second contract but want to continue studding and select the faculty, which is a priority for the Ministry of Defence, for example, engineering, the state will cover the tuition fee. Children of corporals, sergeants and officers will receive free books for the first year in the school. If you have to change the location , for example if solder served in Senaki and moved to Vaziani, his spouse will receive 1000 GEL vocational training voucher in order to easily find job in future. In addition, every soldier, will receive a voucher from the government to study English and computer.
Next year we will create special fund for covering tuition fees at leading foreign military schools abroad. Non-Georgian servicemen will study Georgian language for free.

In case if our soldier dies during military service, including at international missions, the family will receive as compensation the house, and state will take care of deceased spouse’s employment and education of children.

For signing next contract , contractor will receive 7000 GEL from the Defence Ministry as financial bonus.

In case if the military has signed 5 contracts, or served over 20 years , until retirement this person will receive one year salary fully. All military servants will receive benefits on municipal transport. They will also receive preferential loans from banks.

We will also make sure that the children of militaries benefit from patriot camps and other projects during their holidays. No man gets behind in peace or in war non of our military servant will be left in enemies hands alive or dead. It is the base of so called Ranger’s Concept.

- What are the main components of other two concepts Total Training and Total Defence?

- The second and third aspects of the concepts are completely confidential. The only thing I will disclose is that we will continue working to become a member of NATO, as soon as possible. We work closely with the United States. We have very specific plan, which was agreed at the meeting of President Saakashvili and President Obama.

- USA–Georgian military cooperation was recently mentioned by Hillary Clinton during her visit in Georgia … At what stage is this relationship?

- Yes, as I said, there is a specific 6 point plan agreed by two Presidents. The implementation of the plan will begin on September 5th. This agreement covers both anti-aircraft potential as well as the various components of our military strength.

- What is the role of reserve in strengthening Defence policy?

- The part of Total Defence concept is also classified but I can tell you that one of the main components of this concept is the reserve (voluntary and compulsory) which is an integral part of defence system. We are very small country and we can not rely only on a professional army. This is why the voluntary reserve system exists. All our citizens, in case of need will be able, to protect their towns or villages. Their training and regulation of relationships with regular military forces is very important.

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