How Georgia became important element in Russia's war against Ukraine and West

Monday, 26 February 2024

Official Tbilisi has reacted quite adequate for the first time in many months of crisis in Ukrainian-Georgian relations.

On 24 February, both the President Zourabishvili and the newly elected Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, made statements in support of Ukraine, even though previously he had accused Kyiv of seeking to "open a second front in Georgia".

Moreover, the Tbilisi City Hall decided to illuminate the television tower in the colours of the Ukrainian flag on the evening of 24 February.

Reas more in the column by Yurii Panchenko, European Pravda's editor, whether this could signify the beginning of a warming in relations between Georgia and Ukraine – Gift for Russian propaganda: What is key threat of Georgia's rapprochement with Russia.

"Another reason for cautious optimism is that Prime Minister Kobakhidze chose Brussels for his first foreign visit. This step can be interpreted as confirmation of Tbilisi's pro-Western course," notes Yurii Panchenko.

At the same time, he adds, the head of the Georgian government is beyond clear in his statements towards Brussels: there are no plans to change the foreign policy.

So, Georgia does not intend to join Western sanctions against Russia, and support for Ukraine will be limited to voting to condemn Russia's actions on international platforms (Tbilisi refers to it as "political support") and providing humanitarian aid.

Anything beyond these limits, according to the Georgian government, is considered "attempts to drag Georgia into the war".

The European Commission is currently avoiding criticism of the new Georgian government, writes Yurii Panchenko.

"Brussels' logic is understandable: they are avoiding statements that could be interpreted by the Georgian authorities as 'abandoning the European future'. Which would thereby legitimise Tbilisi's final turn towards Russia," explains Panchenko.

The only thing Brussels is focusing on is completing the "homework", the results of which should lead to agreement in Tbilisi on opening EU accession negotiations.

This strategy, however, overlooks a very important point, observes Panchenko: Georgia has become an important element in Russia's war against Ukraine and the West.

It's not just about Georgia's role as a window for circumventing sanctions.

According to the editor, in the interview with American propagandist Tucker Carlson, Vladimir Putin tried to convey his messages to those Western politicians who still advocate for the possibility of understanding with Putin, even at the expense of concessions from Ukraine.

"This endless mobilization in Ukraine, the hysteria, the domestic problems. Sooner or later, it will result in agreement. You know, this probably sounds strange given the current situation. But the relations between the two peoples will be rebuilt anyway. It will take a lot of time, but they will heal," Putin persuades not so much Carlson as Donald Trump.

For Western politicians, especially those not very familiar with Ukrainian history, this thesis may turn out to be quite plausible.

Especially if it is illustrated with the example of Georgia.

"A wonderful example for politicians like Donald Trump who argue against providing assistance to Ukraine, because the war will end sooner or later, and the peoples will 'reconcile'.

It is not ruled out that this will become one of the Kremlin's key tools in their propaganda against Ukraine," notes Yurii Panchenko.

According to him, Kyiv should be ready now to counter this thesis: to press the EU on the inadmissibility of ignoring openly pro-Russian policies in Tbilisi, while simultaneously supporting pro-European movements in the Georgian government. Especially if the statements on 24 February are to have a follow-up.

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