View from Tbilisi: The West dictates to Georgia

11:41 17.05.2024 •

On Tuesday, as the Georgian parliament voted 84-30 in favor of the bill, thousands gathered outside the legislature in central Tbilisi to drown out proceedings with a chorus of whistles, vuvuzelas and banging pots and pans. Riot police dispersed the crowds with water cannons and a sonic weapons. The governing Georgian Dream party shows no sign of trying to dial down tensions.

Playing to conservative supporters, and brushing off criticism from the EU and U.S., the party says the new law is needed to stop foreign influence from undermining traditional values.

“If we bow to these Soviet-style foreign directives, in the future they’ll just as successfully demand us to reject laws on family values and protection of minors, to adopt same-sex marriage, to legalize drugs,” Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said on Monday.   

As for the beatings, Justice Minister Rati Bregadze claimed the pro-EU protesters themselves were to blame for carrying out assaults against their own supporters. “If anybody benefits from such a mess, these are the people behind these protesters,” he said…

U.S. officials threatened to sanction Georgian politicians due to the “foreign agent” bill approved on Tuesday, which they say would undermine democracy — while experts say Congress shares the blame for Tbilisi’s unrest.

Over the past week, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets and tried to block lawmakers from passing the legislation, which will brand hundreds of NGOs and media outlets as foreign agents. Brawls have broken out in the assembly chamber over the matter, and a senior lawmaker was assaulted.

The bill, dubbed a “Russia-style” foreign agent law by critics, gained majority support from the governing Georgian Dream party. The president’s veto is expected to be overridden by a simple majority, paving the way for the legislation to go into effect in the coming weeks…

Many Georgian analysts think the Dream believes Russia will win the war, said Eto Buziashvili, a research associate at the Atlantic Council. That has caused the party to act more openly and aggressively against the will of the vast majority, announcing a foreign policy shift toward Moscow “along with Soviet-style repressions,” she added.

Despite strong words from national security adviser Jake Sullivan and other top U.S. officials, Georgia and surrounding countries aren’t afraid of the Western reaction, Fukuyama said. And this will only become more evident if Russia keeps its momentum going.

The U.S. has limited leverage over Georgia, as talks with Tbilisi lately have focused on integration with the European Union rather than joining NATO. Experts agreed on one course of action to stop the lawmakers from enacting the foreign agents bill: carefully targeted sanctions.

Sanctions that make it difficult for Georgians to travel outside of their country could be very effective, the experts said, since many wealthy politicians have children in European schools or second homes there.


Again sanctions?  If they in Washington don’t like the way people want their country to be governed – they will try to change the government. The world witnessed this many times.  Is this democracy? Why not leave Georgia and its people alone to decide themselves?


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