June 26, 2019

Protests in Georgia. And Lessons for Ukraine

This year, a series of sharp political crises and conflicts resumed in a number of post-Soviet countries. For example, in May–June 2019, this was observed in Moldova, which barely escalated into mass disorder. Today, the same situation arose in Georgia. At this, there is a lot in common in Moldovan and Georgian events caused by internal problems provoked by Russia.

Thus, the protest in Georgia arose because of the Russian State Duma deputy from the Communist Party of Russia, the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy S. Gavrilov's statement in the Georgian Parliament. The natural indignation of patriotically-minded Georgian parliamentarians was supported by the local population.

The opposition used this situation and began mass protests and demonstrations, during which the Georgian leadership was accused of surrendering national interests in favor of Russia, which, after occupation, retains some Georgian territories (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). The protesters called for resignation of the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, I. Kobakhidze, and early parliamentary elections in a proportional system with a zero election barrier.

The authorities' attempts to suppress the protests were in vain. Protests not only went on, they grew, and were voiced new demands, such as dismissal of the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia G. Gakharia and release of all detained protesters.

Georgia's government had to make certain concessions to the opposition, namely, to agree to change the electoral system and to dismiss the chiefs of security agencies, involved in the forceful dispersal of protest actions, from performing their official duties. Besides, I. Kobakhidze has resigned. However, the opposition does not stop and insists on fulfillment of all its demands.

Protests in Tbilisi began on June 20, 2019 Protests in Tbilisi began on June 20, 2019
Protests in Tbilisi began on June 20, 2019


Although the events in Georgia are, at first glance, spontaneous, but their background is deeper and reflects the sharp struggle between the ruling political group “Georgian Dream — Democratic Georgia” and the opposition led by the parties “United National Movement” and “European Georgia” (until 2017 they had been a single political force). As it is usually the case, they compete for power in the country and for the opportunity to realize the interests of the business circles behind these political forces. They have a number of ideological differences, which mainly concern Georgians' attitude to Russia.

…The events in Georgia reflect the sharp struggle between the ruling “Georgian Dream” and the opposition led by “United National Movement”…

Thus, in 2001, the “United National Movement” (UNM) was created by M. Saakashvili and was in power in the period of 2004–2012. The party is for Georgia's joining NATO and the EU, restoration of control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, principled defending of Georgian interests against Russia. While in power, the party actively implemented its plans, which resulted in a sharp confrontation between Russia and Georgia.

It is this chosen course that became the real reason for Russia's invasion of Georgia in August 2008, and not some explanation of the Russians about their intentions to protect the population of South Ossetia. In the course of hostilities, Russia occupied both, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as a part of another Georgian territories. In response, Georgia broke diplomatic relations with Russia, ceased transport communication and minimized bilateral trade and economic ties, and intensified cooperation with NATO and the EU.


Moscow also began its activities to undermine the position of the then leadership of Georgia, including through creating an alternative to the “United National Movement”. And already in 2011, a Russian businessman of Georgian origin, B. Ivanishvili, founded the political movement “Georgian Dream”, which later became the political party “Georgian Dream — Democratic Georgia” (GDDG).

Like the UNM, the new political force also advocated for Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic integration and restoration of its territorial integrity. At the same time, the program provisions of this party included such points as normalization of relations and development of cooperation with Russia. Within the framework of this approach, the peculiarities of the mood of the Georgian society were taken into account, namely, the majority's of citizens supporting the idea of Georgia's European choice with the simultaneous desire for stable relations with Russia, first of all as with the market of goods and tourists' supplier. All this enabled the GDDG to win parliamentary elections in 2012 and 2016 and, accordingly, to take control of the Georgian government. At the same time, in 2013, as Georgian President was elected a representative of the GDDG G. Margvelashvili, and in 2018 — a protegee of the political party S. Zourabichvili.

The vicious circle of Georgian democracy
The vicious circle of Georgian democracy

According to the program of the “Georgian Dream — Democratic Georgia”, which actually received one-man power in the country, its external course is also being built up. Thus, Georgia continues to cooperate with the European Union and NATO, including in the military sphere. In particular, in August 2015, the NATO-Georgian Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (JTEC) was established at the military base in Krtsanisi, near Tbilisi. Since 2016, the Defence Institution Building School has been functioning in Tbilisi. And in May 2018, with the participation of the United States, the Combat Training Centre (which is compared with the German military base Hohenfels) was opened at the base in Vaziani near the capital of Georgia, for training of Georgian military. Besides, NATO military exercises systematically take place in Georgia, and Georgian military units are involved in the Alliance's operational and combat training activities in the Black Sea region.


Since 2012, ruling “Georgian Dream” has begun to consistently improve relations with Russia
Since 2012, ruling “Georgian Dream” has begun to consistently improve relations with Russia

At the same time, since its coming to power in 2012, “Georgian Dream — Democratic Georgia” has begun to consistently improve relations with Russia and even agreed to outright concessions. At the official level, the reason for such changes was explained by the need to eliminate the threats of a new military clash with Russia, and the impossibility of resolving Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts without Moscow's participation. However, in reality, behind all of this was were basically business interests of Georgian and Russian oligarchs associated with the GDDG.

In terms of practical implementation of Georgia's new course, already in 2012, the post of Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia for relations with Russia was established and the format of direct dialogue between the two countries at the governmental level was restored. In addition, the leadership of Georgia significantly mitigated its rhetoric against Russia and its authorities, including abandoning such definitions as “aggressor” or “occupier”. And the very responsibility for the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008 was put on M. Saakashvili, who was President of Georgia at that time.

Tbilisi's other steps towards Moscow also include opening of the Georgian information space for Russian media, allowing pro-Russian NGOs' activities in the country, release of prisoners sentenced for espionage in favor of Russia. Against this background, Georgia has in fact refused to support Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia and has not joined the Western sanctions against the Putin regime.

In turn, Russia hastened to open its market for Georgian goods (including fruits, vegetables, wine and mineral water), agreed to resume regular flights, which the new leadership of Georgia declared as its “strategic achievement”.


…Political crisis in Georgia became a logical consequence of the dual policy of its leadership and concessions to Russia…

The continuation of such a policy was the consent of the leadership, and, in fact, of the ruling political party of Georgia to the speech of the Russian MP in the Georgian Parliament. At this, was ignored the moods of the opposition, which was against letting a representative of the occupying country take the floor in the Parliament and warned about the inevitability of negative consequences of such a step.

Under such circumstances, the next political crisis in Georgia became a logical consequence of the dual policy of its leadership and concessions to Russia, which, with the accumulation of protest potential in Georgian society, ultimately resulted in its indignation. It should be borne in mind that such events are deliberately provoked and subsequently used by the Georgian opposition in preparing for the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2020. Therefore, the opposition is also trying to discredit and weaken the current leadership of the country, and to ensure voting in its favour. And in this aspect it has already achieved certain results.

Possibility of returning to power in Georgia of persistent supporters of the European course of the country and the leaders of a tough policy towards Russia, seriously troubles Moscow. Thus, the events in Georgia are presented by the Russian leadership as “performances of Russophobes, which endanger Russian citizens in the Georgian territory”. At the same time, Moscow is imposing sanctions on Georgia, in particular, it has suspended bilateral air flights. According to the Kremlin's calculations, this will significantly affect the tourism industry in Georgia, which is important for both, its economy and personal businesses of many Georgian citizens. In this way, Russia is trying to oppose the opposition's actions to the interests of the majority of the population of Georgia and to prevent the change of power of the country. All this is confirmed by Moscow's threatening to use military force against Georgia, which is voiced by Chechnya's leader R. Kadyrov.

In Georgia, like in Moldova, Moscow is rehearsing technologies of influence on post-Soviet countries in order to regain its control of them In Georgia, like in Moldova, Moscow is rehearsing technologies of influence on post-Soviet countries in order to regain its control of them
In Georgia, like in Moldova, Moscow is rehearsing technologies of influence on post-Soviet countries in order to regain its control of them

The situation in Georgia is instructive for Ukraine. In Georgia, like in Moldova, Moscow is rehearsing technologies of influence on post-Soviet countries in order to regain its control of them. Today, Russia uses the same technology for the same purpose against Ukraine too. And this is an immediate threat to our state.