Can Western sanctions affect Georgian government?

Thursday, 13 June 2024 —

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recently announced a comprehensive review of all bilateral cooperation between Georgia and the United States. The State Department has implemented a visa restriction policy.

"This includes individuals responsible for or complicit in, or immediate family members of those responsible for or complicit in, undermining democracy in Georgia, such as undermining the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, violently attacking peaceful protesters, intimidating civil society representatives, and deliberately spreading disinformation at the direction of the Georgian government," the US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller explained.

Read more about what American sanctions mean for Georgia in the column by Professor Amiran Khevtsuriani of the Georgian Technical University – 'Non-serious sanctions': How Georgian government prepares for escalating conflict with the West.

In Georgia, the sanctions have elicited mixed reactions, writes Amiran Khevtsuriani.


"The sanctions are not serious and at the same time, they are offensive to our country and our people," insists Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, trying to convince everyone (and perhaps himself).

The columnist believes that even these "preliminary" sanctions can have a very negative impact on a politically and economically vulnerable country like today's Georgia.

"Indeed, signs of turbulence have already been in place: Georgia's national currency, the lari, continues to depreciate and frequent sales of foreign exchange reserves by the National Bank are not helping," writes Amiran Khevtsuriani.

Experts believe, according to the Georgian professor, that if the Georgian government does not promptly change course and cease its anti-Western rhetoric, the situation could get out of control. The lari might soon follow the path of the Russian ruble and the Turkish lira, which Georgia's unstable economy may not withstand.

"Georgian Dream refuses to see these signals though. There is currently no reason to believe that the Georgian government intends to extricate itself from the crisis it has created," the columnist states.

He recalls that representatives of the ruling party constantly attack their Western partners and proudly claim they are unfairly punished for "protecting the country's sovereignty." They deliberately choose sensitive concepts (sovereignty, independence, religion, family sanctity, traditions, etc.) to play on the "patriotic feelings" of certain groups and present themselves as "dedicated to the country's interests."

Simultaneously, Amiran Khevtsuriani notes, the Georgian government has begun implementing new, blatantly anti-Western initiatives.

"Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze's trip to Berlin for the Ukraine Reconstruction Conference and his speech about being ready to 'help the Ukrainian people' (immediately following clearly anti-Ukrainian statements) are perceived not as an attempt to save relations with the West, but rather as a demonstration to their supporters that the Georgian government is still accepted in the West (for now)," believes the professor of the Georgian Technical University.

He suggests that this atmosphere will persist in Georgia until the parliamentary elections.

Georgian society is not faring well, warns Amiran Khevtsuriani. He believes that the key problem lies with the political opposition and its current state.

"Unfortunately, today the opposition forces in Georgia cannot form an agenda and are merely hoping for a 'permanent societal explosion.' For success in the elections, new forces and new faces not involved in political intrigues and not burdened by past mistakes need to appear on the political scene," writes the columnist.

In any case, Georgia faces a politically hot summer and an even hotter autumn, during which the country's fate will be definitively determined.

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