Western Powers Threaten Georgia Over Passage Of Foreign Agents Law

Western powers are threatening Georgia over its new “foreign agents law,” opposed by the US, EU, and NATO, which mandates that organizations receiving significant foreign funding disclose their donors, sparking widespread protests and political turmoil.

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The political situation that Georgia is currently experiencing is getting worse. The ruling party of the tiny country is under fire from the US and its European allies for recently overcoming the veto of the president to enact a “foreign agents’ law.”

Washington and Brussels are against the bill, which mandates that organizations that obtain 20 percent or more of their funding from outside disclose who their funders are. It has sparked weeks of protests in Tbilisi supported by the West, during which protesters have praised the US, the EU, and Ukraine as the epitome of democracy and emancipation and criticized the government for being “Russian slaves.”

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Map of the region

Situated at the meeting point of the Black and Caspian Seas, the south Caucasus country, home to 3.7 million people, is engulfed in the chaos of the early phases of World War III. The Georgian Dream (GD) party, which has ruled since 2012, is perceived by the West as being unduly close to Moscow. Even though Tbilisi has long maintained close ties with NATO, GD is a part of the Georgian aristocracy that continues to aim for a balance between Moscow and Washington.

Like its counterparts in the region, the Georgian oligarchy, which sprang from the Stalinist restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, is being torn apart by factional infighting over the future direction of its foreign policy. This is being made worse by the severe social crises in the country.

The “foreign agents” law is reactionary and may be applied to any legitimate left-wing resistance to the government, even though its immediate targets are pro-NATO middle-class groups and GD opponents inside the governing oligarchy.

The bill’s passing has given Washington the chance to pressure Georgia into complying with its demands, particularly because the situation in Ukraine is not going well and NATO is heading into an open military confrontation with Russia.

The State Department recently issued visa prohibitions for “individuals who are responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members,” demonstrating an astounding level of hypocrisy while the US Congress is drafting sanctions against Georgia. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has ordered a “comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia,” signaling that the Biden administration is ready to add Georgia to its list of enemies. He has also issued a warning, stating that Washington “will take into account Georgia’s actions in deciding our own.”

The approval of the foreign agents’ law will “negatively impact Georgia’s EU path,” according to an announcement made on May 28 by the EU, to which Georgia is applying for membership. Brussels took it a step further. It threatened, saying, “The EU and its Member States are considering all options to react to these developments.”

Irakli Kobakhidze, the prime minister of Georgia, stated five days prior that he had received a warning from EU Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi to exercise extreme caution after what occurred to Fico. The reference was to Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia, who was recently on the verge of being killed by a right-wing gunman, who may have had assistance from foreign intelligence services.

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A demonstrator draped in an American flag stands in front of police during an opposition protest against the foreign influence bill at the Parliamentary building in Tbilisi, Georgia, Tuesday, May 28, 2024. [AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov]

NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly (PA) declared on May 26 that it was “firmly committed to Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, democracy, and aspiration to join NATO,” using language that was generally menacing. It was implied that Georgia’s “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity” could only be guaranteed to the extent that it joined NATO.

“Georgia stands at a crossroads,” the military alliance arrogantly went on to claim. The foreign agents’ law “must now be withdrawn,” and should it not be, the EU and NATO would “continue to support [the protesters].”

Although Washington and Brussels denounce the foreign agents’ law as anti-democratic and a Kremlin creation, their main worry is that it would reveal and destabilize the extensive web of Western-funded “civil society” groups operating in Georgia, which allows imperialism to exert influence over the nation and the region.

A 2019 European Parliamentary Research Service research states that there were 26,000 registered NGOs in Georgia. The text contended that this is proof of a “vibrant and active” civil society. It stated that the EU “liaises with Georgian society regularly” and has “organized extensive consultations” in Georgia by its “2018-2020 Roadmap for engagement with civil society.” Only 23% of Georgians “fully trust/rather trust” these organizations, the authors bemoaned.

These “soft power” organizations advance the political agenda and ideologies of the US and Europe through their work in the areas of human rights advocacy, labor relations, education, and the media, among other areas. Using exchange initiatives, grants, scholarships, and other collaborative relationships supported by organizations such as the World Bank, the European Commission, and USAID, they distribute funds and professional prospects, fostering a pro-Western social foundation.

Two civil society activists from the South Caucasus stated in a surprisingly candid, possibly unintentional, May 5 statement in the Moscow Times that “foreign aid agencies and their local NGO contractors have long colonized most areas of public policy and services” in Georgia. “To give it the appearance of community participation, the aid agency contracts Georgian NGOs to do the everyday footwork.” “Georgian NGOs that receive grants to implement this work may be local, but they hold considerable power over the Georgian population. This power comes from their access to Western embassies and resources,” they further explain.

These forces can be used as the “hard power” of imperialist intervention when needed.

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Street art in the center of Tbilisi promising the incineration of Russia’s capital, July 2023.

The months-long protests in Tbilisi have “been mainly organized by civil society groups, many of which receive funding from overseas groups promoting things like democracy and a free media, who fear the country is sliding into authoritarianism,” according to a May 29 New York Times article that attempts to exalt Georgia’s “democratic” protest movement. It continues, “Many have coordinated their activities with opposition lawmakers in messaging apps.” The author of the piece did not consider the irony of the demonstrations against Georgia’s foreign agents law being led by those very foreign agents.

There are no indications of resistance to the genocide in Gaza among the affluent segments of the middle class that are presently decorating the streets of Tbilisi with European, Georgian, and Ukrainian flags. These strata object to “oppression,” but not to the first genocide of the twenty-first century. They remain silent because they are aware that speaking out against Israel’s systematic killing in Gaza will put them at odds with their international backers. Moreover, capitalism is a system that inspires feelings of excited anticipation rather than a derogatory term for these individuals.

Some of the key organizations behind the Georgian protests are described by the Guardian in a May 16 report on the situation. It states that the Georgian Students for a European Future is a “centrist” organization. Students for Liberty is another group that “has some libertarian tendencies.” It states that a group called Wave “describes itself as ‘not leftist,’ but includes environmentalists.” As stated, the Franklin Group “promotes free markets, private property, and individual liberties.” It is named after Benjamin Franklin. The Shame organization, meanwhile, merely “focuses on free and fair elections.” A different group, Sunset, has “members swear an oath of allegiance” and “describes itself as liberal nationalist.”

There is no denying the disconnect between this perspective and the worries of the great majority of Georgians. The findings of a national survey named “Taking Georgia’s Pulse” were released in October 2023 by organizations affiliated with the US and British governments, including the Eurasia Foundation, National Democratic Institute, and UKAID.

The writers state:

“The survey shows that poverty and economic problems are identified as main contributors to a sense of insecurity–a finding that transcends party line.” “Every second Georgian says the situation regarding poverty and crime has worsened.” “One in ten Georgians can’t afford food, while one in four can only afford food, but nothing else.” “The majority consider poor quality of education as the leading problem facing the education system, while high cost of drugs and medical services are considered as leading problems in the healthcare system.” “The majority,” 83 percent, “says that depression and anxiety is problematic for Georgian society, with almost every second Georgian (41 percent) saying they don’t know who to address for help.”

When asked which national concerns are most important to them and their family, respondents prioritize subjects that are not displayed on the banners during the rallies in Tbilisi. Among the top eight are growing costs and inflation, employment, poverty, pensions, wages, healthcare, and education. “Human rights,” participation in NATO and the EU, ties with Russia, and freedom of speech—all focal points of the anti-government demonstrations—placed tenth or lower. Merely 10% of Georgians stated that “Actions by Russia towards Georgia” are one of the main causes of their unease about living in the nation.

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Anti-Russian graffiti on Davit Aghmashenebeli Avenue in Tbilisi, July 2023.

Despite assertions to the contrary from the West, the majority backs the ruling party. Still, a full 62% of Georgians believe that none of the parties adequately represent their interests.” “Almost every second opposition supporter, every fifth GD supporter, and the majority of undecided say none of the parties represent their interests,” according to a breakdown of party support.

The ceaseless provocations and threats against Russia by the US and NATO have severely worsened the already volatile political situation in Georgia. Parts of the elite connected to Brussels and Washington are attempting to weaken the hold that the ruling party has on power.

In a joint statement released on May 29, two hundred NGOs vowed to disregard the foreign agents statute. “Russian legislation is inapplicable not our nation! They proclaimed, “It will remain a piece of paper that nobody will obey.” The organizations pledged to cover the penalty for anyone found guilty of breaking the rule, which can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. They have a lot of money at their disposal.

At a May 26 Independence Day celebration, President Salome Zourabichvili, who leads Georgia’s armed forces but serves primarily as a figurehead, issued a warning, saying that “the specter of Russia looms over us.”

She declared at the gathering that the “Georgian Charter” would be released, a statement meant to bring the nation’s opposition together before of the elections in October. The proposal asks for the abolition of the foreign agents’ law, the removal of all anti-European policies, the political and structural reform of all significant state agencies, the reversal of any rulings that jeopardize Georgia’s capacity to reimburse its creditors abroad, and an overhaul of the electoral process. Put differently, it’s an appeal for a pro-imperialist spring cleaning, with lots of new jobs and opportunities up for grabs for those who volunteer.

It is unclear if the opposition, which consists of numerous rival right-wing organizations, will be able to unite behind this policy. The biggest risk for [the opposition] is losing momentum and having a weak turnout on election day, according to a May 28 comment on Eurasianet, which expressed Western concerns that Georgia’s anti-government parties are not up to the task and implicitly acknowledged that their base of support is limited.

Recently, GreatGameIndia reported that according to sources, Ukraine bombed Russia’s nuclear warning system, targeting the state-of-the-art Armavir radar station in the Krasnodar border region.

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