Georgia's domestically produced Lazika armored vehicle
During last year's election campaign, leader of the Georgian Dream coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili expressed skepticism about President Mikheil Saakashvili's drive to create an indigenous defense industry. Ivanishvili wasn't the only one -- as EurasiaNet's Molly Corso reported last year, "Many analysts say the development of Tbilisi’s defense industries won’t do much to make Georgia more secure in a potential conflict against a military power like Russia. They see it mostly as an exercise in national pride." That impression was bolstered by the splashy PR efforts exerted to roll out domestically produced armored personnel carriers and drones (the latter of which turned out to not be especially homegrown, borrowing very heavily from an Estonian production).
During a speech on Tuesday, Saakashvili alluded to plans of the new government to scotch defense production, Civil.ge reported:
“It will be a huge mistake if Georgia says no to production of military hardware,” President Saakashvili said, adding that now it was no time for pre-election rhetoric and saying that armored and infantry fighting vehicles produced by [state-owned defense manufacturer] Delta were “bluff” – a reference to remarks of PM Bidzina Ivanishvili who during his pre-election campaign voiced skepticism over Delta’s potential.
But now that the campaign is over and Ivanishvili is prime minister, his government appears to be interested in keeping Georgia's defense industry on the path that the previous government forged. In response to Saakashvili's comments, Ivanishvili's defense ministry appointees say that there is no need to fret:
Deputy Defense Minister, Zaza Broladze, said in response that the President “has been misled”.
“The Georgian Ministry of Defense has no intention to abolish military industrial enterprise Delta,” Broladze said.
“On the contrary, if previously military combat vehicles Lazika and Didgori had been designed according to the taste of certain politicians, currently a new management of Delta is actively working together with the professional military instructors and experts in order to take into consideration their competent opinion,” the Deputy Defense Minister said.
There is of course a lot of wiggle room in that statement -- closing down Delta altogether is different from stopping vanity projects like new APCs. But, in separate comments, defense minister Irakli Alasania gave a broader endorsement of the previous government's work:
Asked about PM Ivanishvili’s skepticism over military production in Georgia, which he voiced during his pre-election campaign ahead of the October elections, Alasania responded that the Prime Minister was intending to visit Delta.
“It’s hard to believe in its potential if you don’t see it. I was doubtful too about whether we can produce military vehicles or not. We can, if we plan properly and if there is a right management in place. It depends on market, production cost and profitability. I hope we will be able to create military industry and to employ people,” Alasania said in early January.