How Georgian Government Is Approaching a Loud Conflict with West

Monday, 25 September 2023

Last week, Georgia came close to facing full-fledged Western sanctions. It certainly didn't boost confidence in the Georgian government while the worst-case scenario was averted.

Meanwhile, the Georgian government is preparing for large-scale protests in the country, which could erupt if the European Commission denies the country EU candidate status this year.

Read more about why the coming months in Georgia are bound to be challenging in an article by EuroPravda editor Yurii Panchenko's Georgia Enters Hot Autumn: How Giving Up Sanctions Forces Tbilisi to Prepare for Protests.

A new loud scandal in Georgia broke out on September 14. It became known that the US had sanctioned former Georgian Prosecutor General Otar Partskhaladze.

Partskhaladze is considered close to the founder of the ruling party Georgian Dream and de facto country's leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili. He has been sanctioned buy Ukraine because of that.

However, the United States has leveled more significant accusations against Partskhaladze, calling him a "Russian oligarch of Georgian origin" and accusing him of working for the Russian FSB, influencing "Georgian society and politics in favour of Russia."

US sanctions require freezing the assets of the former Georgian Prosecutor General, banning him from banking services in Georgia, and revoking his Georgian citizenship (dual citizenship with Russia is prohibited in the country).

The National Bank of Georgia decided to defy the United States. They adopted a decision stating that for international sanctions to be imposed on Georgian citizens, a verdict from a Georgian court confirming the validity of these accusations is necessary.

Protesting against this decision, several top managers of the National Bank, including two deputy heads, resigned.

However, the most significant sensation was the decision of commercial banks. They declared to adhere to US sanctions even without the National Bank's order (even a bank owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili expressed support for this decision).

This move by financial institutions essentially saved Georgia from falling under sanctions.

In response, the Georgian authorities began implementing Plan B. Unexpectedly, the State Security Service saw grounds for revoking Partskhaladze's Georgian citizenship (which formally would make it easier to impose sanctions on him).

However, the former Prosecutor General was given enough time to transfer all his assets in Georgia to his son.

Nevertheless, this plan was not fully realised. Georgian President Salome Zourabishvili refused to revoke the former Prosecutor General's Georgian citizenship, citing the need to verify information about his work for Russia.

Although the Georgian government managed to shift responsibility to the president, strategically, it suffered a clear defeat. Tbilisi not only worsened its relations with Washington but also demonstrated its readiness to disregard national interests when it comes to the inner circle of Ivanishvili.

It is difficult to imagine how Georgian Dream will act if the party's founder himself falls under sanctions.

It appears that Tbilisi is beginning to prepare for such a scenario.

They are preparing for the scenario of the European Commission denying EU candidate status. The relevant decision is expected to be announced by the end of October. It is highly likely that Georgia will not obtain it.

In response, the State Security Service announced they had exposed a plan with a "Ukrainian trace" to overthrow the government. According to their information, "organisers are considering the possibility of implementing a scenario in Georgia similar to the Ukrainian Euromaidan of 2014."

Either way, official Tbilisi is moving closer to a loud conflict with the West, which could result in a complete reassessment of relations.

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