US and Georgian forces began two weeks of military exercises in the South Caucasian republic on Monday, a move that is likely to irritate Georgia
's former Soviet master Russia
About 600 US and Georgian soldiers were taking part in the manoeuvres, for which the US army for the first time transported an entire mechanised company, including 14 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, across the Black Sea
"This represents a big step in our training and a big step in our interoperability," Brigadier General Mark Loeben
, director of exercises at US European Command
, told reporters.
has US backing for its bid to join the Western NATO alliance. But the move is firmly opposed by Russia
, which fought a five-day war with Georgia
in 2008 and supports separatist authorities in two Georgian breakaway regions: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.