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The Ukrainian "Сoup" in Georgia

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Photo: After the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Georgian government took a rather specific position. Source: Collage The Gaze.
Photo: After the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Georgian government took a rather specific position. Source: Collage The Gaze.

In the second half of September, Georgian government officials made rather strange accusations against Ukraine. "A certain group of people operating in Georgia and abroad is planning to organize destabilization and civil unrest in Georgia in October-December this year, with the ultimate goal of changing the government by force," the Georgian Security Service said in a statement. Georgia's intelligence services believe that one of the authors of the "plan" is allegedly the deputy former Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, Vano Merabishvili, and now the deputy head of Ukraine's military intelligence, Giorgi Lortkipanidze. 

Georgia also tried to accuse Lortkipanidze’s subordinates of involvement, namely a former member of the security team of the third president of Georgia, Mikheil Baturin, and a member of Mikheil Saakashvili's inner circle, the commander of the Georgian Legion in Ukraine Mamuka Mamulashvili.

Ukraine has officially denied the charges, and, in fact, the story has not had any further development so far, but it fully reflects the current state of Ukrainian-Georgian relations, as well as the place that Georgia occupies in the modern world.

A Strange EU "Ally" And Partner of Russia

After the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Georgian government took a rather specific position. Georgia itself had previously been subjected to Russian aggression, which resulted in the occupation of a large part of its territory, where the Russians proclaimed so-called independent republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia has also repeatedly declared European and Euro-Atlantic integration as a priority. Hence, it would be logical to assume that Georgia would become a reliable ally of Ukraine in this war, but in reality, things were not so simple.

The government of the Georgian Dream party, which is currently in power in Georgia, has a position that can be called pro-Russian, although not as explicit as in some other countries. Georgia never joined the EU's anti-Russian sanctions and continued to maintain relations with Russia. Moreover, Georgia is one of the few countries in the world whose relations with Russia have only improved since February 24, 2022, as evidenced by the resumption of direct flights between Moscow and Tbilisi.

At the same time, the Georgian government does not seem to be openly supporting the Kremlin. Their position is that they cannot be at odds with Russia, provoking it to invade again and constantly recalling the sad experience of 2008, when Russia attacked their country, causing significant destruction, and occupied Georgian territory. This is important because the social mood in Georgia is the exact opposite of the government's position, and the level of support for Ukraine is very high in Georgian society.

The Difficult Path of European Integration

For a long time, it was believed that Georgia was more successful on the path to European integration than Ukraine. The most striking example of such a belief was the fact that Tbilisi received visa-free travel with the EU earlier than Kyiv. Additionally, the legendary "Georgian reforms" have long been considered exemplary in the post-Soviet space. Now, however, the situation has reversed, and Ukraine (along with Moldova) are candidates for EU membership, while Georgia’s path to the EU is still delayed, and there is no reason to expect a breakthrough in the near future. 

Moreover, the situation with ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who returned to Georgia from Ukraine two years ago and was imprisoned despite his poor health, does not help European integration, which the current Georgian government does not seem to really need. At the very least, they continue refusing to impose sanctions against Russia and imitating the Kremlin in the domestic political arena. For example, recently Georgia wanted to introduce the status of a "foreign agent" in the country, based on the Russian model, and only mass protests prevented this from happening.

In general, it is hard not to notice the accumulation of contradictions in Georgian society between the pro-Russian government and the predominantly pro-Ukrainian society. Between the government's blocking of European integration and public support for it. Between different models of geopolitical choice, and this likely to result in tensions sooner or later. For example, on the eve of the parliamentary elections to be held in Georgia in 2024.

Preemptive Prosecution

Obviously, the accusations against Ukraine are an attempt by the Georgian government to discredit the opposition forces on the eve of the elections, trying to expose the so-called Ukrainian trace everywhere. Georgia intimidates its citizens with the "involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian war" by drawing associations between opposition politicians and "foreign special services." However, such information technologies are the best evidence of the government's uncertainty about its own future.

Recently, Russia has been losing ground in the Caucasus region. Azerbaijan's victory in Armenia's long-running conflict over Karabakh has led to both Azerbaijan and Armenia finally breaking free of Russia's influence. The victorious Azerbaijan, which has a reliable military ally in Turkey and a major economic partner in the European Union, simply has no particular interest in relations with Russia. Armenia is disappointed with the lack of assistance and protection from Russia, which has long been considered Armenia's main partner, and is now looking for partners in the West. Under these circumstances, Georgia remains Russia's only partner in the region. But this partnership is also not deep and has no roots. Except for the position of the current government, but governments tend to change.

Moreover, the old argument "we should not provoke Russia because there will be a new war" is unlikely to work any longer. Armenia and Azerbaijan show that Russia cannot physically influence anyone in the region. Therefore, the elections in Georgia promise to be interesting and challenging, and the authorities are preparing for them by inventing "Ukrainian conspiracies" in advance. Only time will tell to what extent this will help the Georgian Dream retain power, but it is unlikely that anyone will be able to stop the changes in the region whose time has come.

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