Posted 11 апреля 2023,, 11:19

Published 11 апреля 2023,, 11:19

Modified 11 апреля 2023,, 12:14

Updated 11 апреля 2023,, 12:14

For Russia, but not to the end... Georgia is leaning more and more towards the European Union

For Russia, but not to the end... Georgia is leaning more and more towards the European Union

11 апреля 2023, 11:19
Despite the constant accusations of the pro-Russian policy pursued by the Georgian authorities, the country will almost certainly join the European Union soon.

The threat to Georgia from Russia remains quite real. But this is not at all a reason for the authorities of this country to be able to refer to it in the fight against their competitors, says journalist Alexander Atasuntsev.

He recalls that the idea of the Georgian Dream party ruling in this country and its founder, billionaire Bidzin Ivanishvili, as pro-Russian has long become a stereotype. Experts, the media, and the opposition constantly remind about this.

Yes, Georgia has not joined the anti-Russian sanctions, does not supply weapons to Ukraine, does not allow some Russian journalists and oppositionists, and receives praise from the Kremlin for this. In addition, the country's authorities accuse the West and Ukraine of trying to drag Georgia into a conflict with Russia. They don't want to pay such a price for joining the European Union.

But! There is no reason to claim that the Georgian authorities are really working for the Kremlin's interests, the author believes. The reasons for the conflict are different.

Lost reputation

Even the reproach that the authorities wanted to adopt an almost "Russian" law on foreign agents, and abandoned this venture because of mass protests, is not entirely fair, because in the actions of the authorities in recent years, it is difficult to find pro-Russian steps.

Diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation have not yet been established, there is no direct air communication. Moreover, the authorities condemn Russia's own actions and speak out for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, voting for it in the UN.

Moreover, the course for Euro-Atlantic integration is written in the Georgian constitution, and precisely when the "Georgian Dream" came to power. Thus, the country is moving along the course set by the now disgraced ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili.

In addition, the stereotype that Georgia does not want to comply with Western sanctions against Russia is also incorrect, in practice it does it regularly, according to the report of the US State Department.

Yes, the reputation of the "Georgian Dream" is tarnished by the fact that Ivanishvili made his fortune in Russia. Moreover, despite the promise to get rid of them, he did not keep it completely for more than ten years. However, today he is more protective of his assets in the West, he has been suing the Swiss bank Credit Suisse for several years, because of whose actions, according to him, the billionaire lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Pragmatism and nothing more

According to the author, it is the intentions to build pragmatic relations with the Kremlin that have become the main source of accusations of pro-Russian behavior by the Georgian authorities.

Already after the start of the SVO, the leaders of the Georgian Dream declared that they would not allow the opening of a "second front". This also concerned the supply of weapons to Ukraine, which, according to them, could turn out to be a red rag for the Kremlin. At the same time, Moscow's violent reaction to mass protests against the law on foreign citizens shows that Georgia is still vulnerable to Russian threats, approximately like Ukraine.

Both the government and the opposition are still convinced that their country was the first victim of Russia's imperial ambitions in the post-Soviet era. Moreover, whenever relations between the countries escalated, Georgia remained one-on-one with Russia.

The population of the country constantly feels threatened by the Kremlin, and is afraid that if Ukraine is defeated, Georgia will become the next victim – 72% of Georgians are sure of this. And more than 50% are sure that problems cannot be avoided in any case, regardless of the results of their own. 36% believe that a conflict with Russia can be avoided at the cost of compromise — as the Georgian Dream also suggests, by the way. But 22% disagree with this.  And yet the majority is for a bolder policy: more than 60% of Georgians would like to support Ukraine, including with weapons. By the way, Georgian legionnaires are one of the most numerous foreign groups fighting on the side of Ukraine.

Motives and prospects of the "Georgian Dream"

Parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia in 2024, at which the Georgian Dream party will run for a fourth term.

Last year, Georgia applied to join the European Union, but the European Commission gave the status of candidates only to Ukraine and Moldova, rejecting Georgia, but giving it a "European perspective" — a list of 12 recommendations to prepare for the next attempt.

A strong blow to the ruling party and a signal that its policy is dissatisfied in the European Union. This refusal provoked protests in the country, which led to the fact that the Georgian Dream began to prepare a law on foreign agents in order, according to many, to limit the possibilities of the opposition and independent media, many of which are sponsored by the West.

However, the government itself is the main beneficiary of Western aid, it is to it that tens of millions of dollars are transferred annually from the United States and the European Union for state programs. Including regional development, education, cultural projects, improvement of democratic institutions.

It is noteworthy at the same time that mass protests against the law on foreign agents did not lead to an increase in the popularity of the opposition at all. There was no real drama in the protests, there was no tension in them, they were more like folk festivals, and they dispersed them sluggishly.

The fact that the opposition could not use them indicates its low popularity, its fragmentation and marginality. She has been using the same slogans for years, accusing the authorities of being pro-Russian, and this does not give her points anymore. "Georgian Dream" collects 25% of the votes, and Mikhail Saakashvili's opposition coalition - only 6%. All together - 13%... At the same time, about half of Georgians cannot name a party that meets their interests at all. But one thing is clear: the absolute majority — more than 80% of Georgian citizens — want to go to Europe!

That is why in 2024 the "Georgian Dream" will depend on the decision of the European Commission. And if she approves the application, then all her accusations of being pro-Russian will disappear by themselves. In the meantime, it is clear that although Brussels is not happy with everything that is happening in Georgia, it does not see any other force in this country, and therefore is ready to put up with some of the authoritarian habits of the ruling party.