Media Contact: Shelly Han
WASHINGTON– Responding to Russia’s planned “Caucasus 12” military exercises, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, urged the Russian Government to cancel the exercises. The Russian Government has publicly announced plans for large-scale military exercises, to be held not only in Russia but also in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – regions which are internationally recognized as Georgian territory but which the Russian government has illegally occupied and militarized since its August 2008 invasion of Georgia. The dates of the exercises are September 17-23, little more than one week before parliamentary elections in Georgia.
“To hold large-scale military exercises on occupied Georgian territory is a crude intimidation stunt,” said Chairman Smith. “The Russian Government should cancel these exercises – which are contrary to the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states enshrined in the OSCE’s Helsinki Accords. In any case, the fact that the Russian Government can even contemplate holding such exercises shows that the U.S. should strengthen its engagement and support of Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.