Yes, in the geopolitical situation in which Georgia finds itself – not being a member of NATO, but having Russian bases on its territory – it could be considered understandable that the rulers there refrain from a clear anti-Russian stance. However, the very similar to the Russian law on “foreign agents” was already a step too far. Georgians took to the streets. They fear that their path to the West has just been severed.
Putin in 2008 defeated Georgia very quickly. Now it is enough to drive the country’s main highway from Tbilisi towards Kutaisi and Batumi to see that Russia has a shoe on Georgia’s spine. Literally. Already in the vicinity of Gori, the road is adjacent to large, clearly visible signs informing that this is where the territory of South Ossetia begins. A quasi-state controlled by Russia.
In 2008, Russia was not so much about entering Tbilisi and occupying the entire country . More about humiliating the then pro-Western Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. A man whose Rose Revolution overthrew the previous leader of the state, Eduard Shevardnadze (the last head of the USSR Foreign Ministry, a man close to Moscow) and launched pro-democratic reforms. Saakashvili, of course, was humiliated, and a video of him chewing his tie, waiting for the latest information from the front, was circulating all over the Russian Internet, arousing general hilarity.
However, Putin’s intervention did not overthrow Saakashvili or divert Georgia from its pro-Western path (although it most likely stopped its NATO integration). Misha, as Saakashvili is known, continued the reforms, and later even managed to significantly change course. The last years of his rule saw growing authoritarianism mixed with the president’s narcissism, abuse of power and arbitrariness of the services. In the end, Saakashvili lost the election. In his favor (although, as a pro-Western president, he did not do any favours), it must be said that he gave up power without hesitation. He was replaced by the Georgian Dream party, led by the local billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Who, importantly, got most of his fabulous wealth in Russia.
For a long time, analysts disagreed. Is Ivanishvili a Russian project or not? Saakashvili’s achievements have not been wasted. Many of the effects of his reforms were still visible in Georgia. The infrastructure modernization initiated by him was developed and continued to impress the region (Armenia is trying to copy many Georgian solutions). Georgia also remained a relatively pro-Western tourist mecca. Both Russians and the entire West, including Poles, were eager to go to the country.
Why does Georgia not stand up to Russia?
The ex-president Saakashvili also returned to Georgia, hoping that he would become an icon of the opposition. However, taking into account that after leaving office, he was arrested in Georgia for abuse of power – he was arrested. In which – in very poor health – he remains to this day.
Everything changed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Georgia got used to it. The government did not join Western sanctions or take a clear stance on the war (although it did accept many Russian refugees from the Russian mobilization). In the geopolitical situation Georgia finds itself in – not being a member of NATO, but having Russian bases on its territory, which the international community considers as part of it – it is hardly surprising that it refrains from taking a clear anti-Russian stance.
However, a very similar to the Russian law on “foreign agents”, which forces any organization receiving more than 20 percent of the foreign agent to register under this name. of its funds from abroad, was already one of the steps that angered the opposition and the decidedly pro-Western Georgian street.
Georgians took to the streets
In Russia itself, this law is a pretext for persecuting pro-Western circles. The Georgian opposition fears that the new law will serve the same purpose in their country. The government in Tbilisi claims that the law differs from the Russian one and is in line with “European standards” (how do we know it?), and President Salome Zurabishvili, issued by Georgian Dream, has even announced that he will veto it. Georgians, however, took to the streets.
During the protests outside the parliament, the police used water cannons and tear gas. The law, similar to the Russian one, provoked a reaction similar to that of Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of European integration in Ukraine, which led to the Maidan and the rejection of Russian domination. Just like Ukrainians in the past, Georgians today are afraid that their road to the West has just been broken. After a dramatic Tuesday night, the protests continue on Wednesday.