TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has signed an agreement to continue American support for Georgia’s military for six years.

The current agreement for such support is to expire at the end of the year, but Austin and Georgian Defense Minister Junasher Burchuladze signed the replacement agreement Monday during Austin’s visit to the country.

Austin said the U.S. support will help the former Soviet republic on the Black Sea build “effective deterrence and defense.”

U.S. support has included participating in military exercises with Georgian forces.

Georgia and Russia fought a short war in 2008 that ended with Russia gaining control of two separatist republics that account for about 20% of Georgia’s territory.

In a meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, Austin 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.”