How US sanction threat showed weakness of Georgian government

Tuesday, 28 May 2024 —

The political turmoil surrounding the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence in Georgia is reaching its peak.

On 28 May, the Georgian parliament will attempt to override President Salome Zourabichvili's veto and finally pass the controversial law.

Read more about the decisive phase for Georgia in the column by Amiran Khevtsuriani, an associate professor of Georgian Technical University and founder of the Georgian-Ukrainian Center – The first sanctions against the Georgian government: Is it likely to stop Tbilisi's pro-Russian turn?

The columnist immediately notes that there are not just two sides (the West and Russia) in this conflict.


"Time has revealed other external players: China, Türkiye and even Iran," writes the expert.

According to Amiran Khevtsuriani, it all began on 14 May when the Georgian parliament passed the mentioned bill in its third reading.

On the same day, James O'Brien, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, arrived in Tbilisi. However, the honourary chairman of the ruling party Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, refused to meet with him.

Later, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze stated that the reason for the that was "threats and blackmail from the US."

"Kobakhidze himself held a 2.5-hour meeting with O'Brien. The tense atmosphere of the conversation was clear from their briefings following the meeting," writes the professor of the Georgian Technical University.

Prime Minister Kobakhidze again spoke of the "global war party," the protection of sovereignty and the necessity of the transparency law in the context of defending the country's sovereignty.

"If the law advances against EU norms and there is an erosion of democracy and violence against peaceful demonstrators, we will see restrictions from the United States. There will be financial and/or travel restrictions specifically on those responsible and their families," O'Brien said regarding the law passed right in his presence.

The author emphasises that this was the key statement of the entire briefing, which caused great concern both in society and behind the scenes of the government.

The Georgian government's anti-Western rhetoric only intensified, following O'Brien's visit, the Georgian expert notes.

These statements were accompanied by compliments from Moscow towards the Georgian government, which "selflessly defends the sovereignty of their country from Western imperialists."

The turning point of this confrontation, according to Amiran Khevtsuriani, was Prime Minister Kobakhidze's visit to Tehran for the funeral of the tragically deceased President Ebrahim Raisi, which was not attended by any Western leaders.

Prior to this, a few hours before the visit to Tehran, at noon, the government announced that Irakli Kobakhidze had gone to the Iranian embassy in Tbilisi, left a note in the book of condolences and expressed condolences to the Iranian people.

The opposition viewed this as a gesture of defiance from the Georgian government towards the West.

The United States began preparing sanctions. It reached the point where Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze called the US a hostile state.

"However, representatives of the government publicly assure that they are not afraid of sanctions and will defend the sovereignty and independence of the country to the end," writes Amiran Khevtsuriani.

He points out that simultaneously, a very important event occurred. Georgian Prosecutor General Irakli Shotadze, considered one of the regime's cornerstones, resigned, allegedly due to health complications.

Coincidence or not, Deputy Finance Minister Mirza Gelashvili also submitted his resignation at the same time.

"It is unknown whether these resignations mark the beginning of a systemic collapse, but problems within the ruling team are obvious," the Georgian expert concludes.

If you notice an error, select the required text and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editors.