Ex-US Ambassador, former Assistant US State Sec: "Putin is failing in Ukraine, but winning in Georgia"
“The Georgian government is taking pages from Putin’s playbook”
Former US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly and former US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs David Kramer published a joint article entitled “Putin is loosing in Ukraine but winning in Georgia” on Georgia’s relations with Russia, the judiciary, and Georgian domestic politics.
According to Ian Kelly and David Kramer, the ruling Georgian Dream party makes decisions based on whether or not it can offend Putin. Also, in their opinion, the Georgian government controls all branches of power.
“In its domestic policy, the government has been steadily gathering all the reins of power, in all three branches of government, and marginalizing or dismantling institutions that could provide a check on that power. This has been particularly apparent in its refusal to make reforms urged by the U.S., Europe, and NGOs to ensure an independent judiciary”, Kramer and Kelly write.
In the article, the authors talk about the difference between the will of the Georgian people, who have a strong desire to cooperate with the West (75% of the population want to join NATO, 88% want to join the EU), and the actions of the authorities, who choose a course contrary to the intentions of the electorate.
“Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, rhetorically still supports a Western integration policy. But its actions show the Georgian Dream government is clearly casting its lot with the wrong crowd”, the article says.
The article also discusses the judicial system of the country and its shortcomings. The authors discuss the arrest of Nika Gvaramia, the CEO of the Mtavari TV channel, and Mikheil Saakashvili, the former President of Georgia, and note that the Georgian Dream has a strong control of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies in making economically and politically beneficial decisions.
Kelly and Kramer see the ruling party’s policy on the war in Ukraine as worrisome. It is said that this regime, unlike the previous two, is characterized by a policy of playing along with Russia and ignoring the recommendations of the West.
“The Georgian government’s refusal to impose sanctions on Russia, its prevention of its citizens from joining the fight in Ukraine, and its alleged efforts to help Russia avoid sanctions prompted Ukraine to withdraw its ambassador from Tbilisi”, the article says.
Finally, according to Kelly and Kramer, it is necessary to apply personal sanctions against the informal ruler Bidzina Ivanishvili:
“Like Kolomoyskyy and Plahotniuc, who were no longer in government when they were sanctioned, Ivanishvili and his inner circle are not accountable to the voters, though they clearly have an outsize influence on the government’s decisions and policies”.
Also, according to the authors, there is still a chance to stop the Georgian authorities, who act like a puppet regime. To do this, they explain, it is necessary to increase Western influence in order to stop the government.
“They [ the United States and its European allies] must act to discourage the Georgian government, and particularly those behind the scenes pulling the strings, from making decisions and implementing policies that push Georgia further from the West, and closer to Russia”.