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New Color Revolution in Georgia Promises to Turn Bloody
Parliament has recalled the highly criticized "Foreign Agents" Bill, but that hasn't stopped political unrest.
On Thursday, the Georgian parliament led by the Georgian Dream party was pressured to recall a draft law that would require NGOs to register as foreign agents if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad. Opponents of the bill claim that the law would push Georgia further away from the European Union and threaten Georgian democracy. When advanced in parliament, the bill sparked protests on the streets of Tbilisi numbering in the tens of thousands, with protestors waving Ukrainian, Georgian, and EU flags. Tensions heightened when Molotov cocktails were thrown at the parliament building and rioters were met with tear gas and water hoses, resulting in over 130 detentions. Instead of the opposition dying down when the bill was withdrawn, protests have just changed their goals and continued to grow. On a podium in Tbilisi, protesters call for the resignation of the government and early parliamentary elections. They also shout the name of Sokhumi, the capital city of their separatist neighbor, Abkhazia, where a bloody sectarian war took place between the Abkhazians and the Georgians in the 90’s:
While this is going on, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili is in the U.S. meeting with Washington officials and expressing support for the protests against the Georgian Dream party, which originally backed her election campaign in 2018. Meanwhile, U.S. Department Spokesperson Ned Price spoke on Tuesday with vague comments of supporting democracy in Georgia, and implied imposing sanctions on those in the Georgian Parliament who might advance the bill. All together, the recent events in Tbilisi have all the makings of a Color Revolution. Much like the violence that broke out in the Donbass of Ukraine in 2014, the political unrest in Georgia foretells violent unrest between Tbilisi and the northern separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In doing so, this can elicit larger political and military conflicts between Russia and Georgia.
United States officials hypocritically give condemnation of the Georgian Parliament for drafting such a bill when it was modeled after the U.S. 1938 "Foreign Agents Registration Act", a bill that requires all individuals or entities that are engaged in lobbying or advocacy to register with a foreign government. With the Georgian bill, organizations would have to disclose information about their foreign funding just like the regular practice is in the U.S. and other EU countries. Furthermore, the bill would give no special precedent to the Russian government or any foreign entity, all would be subject to the same restrictions and fines. Writer Brad Pearce said “you have to be blind or dishonest to not see what it means if a law which treats all foreign influence equally is seen to benefit Russia: there is less Russian outside influence in Georgia than the US/EU.”
It is no coincidence then that the political groups that head the protests in Georgia are given grants and annual funding from the National Endowment for Democracy(NED), a U.S. taxpayer funded NGO that has taken an aggressive role in past color revolutions. Chair of the Georgia Dream Party Irakli Kobakhidze, has accused NED of financially supporting ‘extremism and polarization’ in Georgia. “On the one hand, they are telling you that your foremost task, goal is depolarization; [on the other hand], they are financing polarization.”
NGO leaders like Nodar Rukhadze, co-founder of the Shame Movement, an agency which facilitates EU integration, described the Georgian Dream party as a proxy of the Kremlin. In 2021, the Shame Movement received $64,123 from the NED, as well as hundreds of thousands more to other pro-EU groups. If the controversial bill was made into law in Georgia, these organizations would have to register as foreign agents. Without such legislation, there is no legal mechanism in Georgia requiring NGOs to disclose their funding, relationships, and activities with foreigners — limiting their ability to stoke unrest and implement “regime tweaking” in the Georgian government.
In Western media, comparisons to the Ukrainian Euro-Maidan revolution have already been made, with no acknowledgment at how disastrous the long-term results have been for Kiev. “Could Georgia be the next Ukraine?” a Thursday CNN headline read. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed support for the Georgian protestors as they attempted to storm the parliament building. He has made attempts to link the Euro-Maidan protests and the Ukrainian struggle against Russia with the Georgian protests in the minds of Western peoples: “we want to be in the European Union and we will be there. We want Georgia to be in the European Union and I’m sure it will be there.”
One possible explanation for foreign support of the protests could be part of a strategy to stretch Russia out along a wider front to weaken its advance into Ukraine. As the Russians close in on Bakhmut city, several attempts at destabilization in neighboring regions have been made to keep the Russians on alert. An apparent assassination attempt on the president in the breakaway region of Transnistria took place on Thursday, the same day the Georgian parliament recalled their bill. While in Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko claims a group tied to Ukrainians shot down a Russian plane stationed in Belarus recently.
What one can say for sure — the new cold war has found its way into Georgia, with foreign-provoked instability showing no signs of slowing down. Protesters have vowed to continue until all of those detained are released, with some implying they will continue indefinitely. The movement has all the bearings of a Western-backed “Color Revolution”, potentially creating a political situation that could spiral out of control. If the chants of the crowd on Thursday are answered, Georgia may again decide on a military solution to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, reminiscent of the Russo-Georgian conflict of 2008. That would mean a whole new Western-backed front against Russia, and violence across the Caucasus.
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