Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Preparing for the Biden-Putin call Five things to know about Russia's troop buildup near Ukraine Austin warns Congress of 'enormous' negative effects of yearlong stopgap bill MORE on Monday signed an agreement to continue U.S. support for Georgia’s military for six years.
Austin, who was in the country as part of a larger trip to Europe, signed the agreement with Georgian Defense Minister Junasher Burchuladze. The deal will take the place of a similar pact between the two countries set to expire at the end of the year.
“This represents an important new phase in security cooperation between our two countries," Austin said during remarks at the Ministry of Defense in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.
The agreement is meant to help the former Soviet state “further develop its defense capacity and advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” according to a Defense Department statement released after the signing.
Austin also said the support will help Georgia build “effective deterrence and defense,” and includes military exercises with the country’s troops.
The extended security pact is sure to feed into tensions between the U.S. and Russia, which has consistently pressured former Soviet republics in recent years in an effort to gain territory. In 2008, after a brief war between Russia and Georgia, Moscow gained control of roughly 20 percent of Georgia's territory.
Austin on Monday said “the United States condemns Russia's ongoing occupation of Georgia and its attempts to expand influence into the Black Sea region through military coercion and malign activities.”