Georgia, Colour Revolutions and the Ever-Shifting Mirage of Euro-Atlantic Integration

By Rupen Savoulian

Demonstrators gather with Georgian national and EU flags during a pro-EU and anti-government rally, in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, July 3, 2022.

The former Soviet republic of Georgia experienced large anti-government protests in the early weeks of March. These demonstrations received favourable coverage in the corporate media. The protests, the reasons they happened, and why the Georgian political situation is in the news at all, forms a multifaceted subject which we shall untangle here.

Georgia-Russia relations after 1991 have taken many twists and turns. It is necessary to understand this background so we can make sense of current developments.

Since the dissolution of the USSR, Georgian authorities have veered towards the West in their domestic and foreign policies. Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first president of post-communist Georgia, was a dissident in Soviet times.

Hailed as a hero, he was also a vicious racist and violent ultranationalist, pledging to rid Georgia of all its ethnic minorities. Gamsakhurdia failed to unite his nation, instead provoking the ethnic enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to secede.

Georgia’s economic collapse, mirroring that of Russia and other ex-Soviet republics, was appalling. Rival mafiosi groups fought for control and federal governmental authority was crumbling. Ousted in a near civil war by rival warlord ultranationalists in late 1991, Gamsakhurdia tried to stage a comeback, but to no avail. He was assassinated by his former colleagues in 1993.

From this cesspit of unrestrained privatisation, ethnic conflict and mafiosi wars, Edward Shevardnadze – the last Soviet foreign minister – emerged as the new president. Opening up to the West, he allowed a huge network of western NGOs and civil society networks to set up shop. The rationale was that this would lead to the construction of an open society. Open for big capital, yes – but not for the vast majority of the Georgian people.

Dealing with a shattered economy, mafia wars, ethnic separatist conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the Gamsakhurdia-loyalist rebellion, Shevardnadze had failed to stabilise Georgian economics and politics. He kept relations with Moscow cordial and friendly, but never abandoned the dream of full Euro-Atlantic integration.

Legitimate anger against the authorities continued to build as the newly independent post-communist politicians failed to solve any of Georgia’s long term socio-political problems, and basically presided over a failed state.

Georgia has also been a central focus of intrigues by imperialist powers, which intend to install business-friendly governments in the capital, Tbilisi. Located on the Black Sea, it is within reach of the oil-rich Caspian Sea.

Azerbaijan – with its tremendous oil reserves – cooperated with foreign oil multinationals to build pipelines to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. These pipelines, originating in the Caspian, pass through Georgian territory – the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is a major artery for the global oil industry.

The 2003 Rose Revolution was a U.S.-orchestrated regime change operation, utilising the soft power of U.S. funded NGOs inside Georgia to push for a more pro-western orientation. Shevardnadze was ousted, and U.S. trained lawyer Mikhail Saakashvili took over as president.

From the outset, Saakashvili amplified the pro-imperialist orientation of the nation – supporting the American invasion of Iraq in that year and sending 1000 troops as well as receiving Donald Rumsfeld, then U.S. Secretary of Defence, in Tbilisi. This advanced a perspective already set out by Shevardnadze – for Georgia to join NATO.

Preaching a free market fundamentalism, Saakashvili made the Georgian economy dependent on tourism, an outflow of cheap labour, and financial parasitism.

The Georgian authorities, since 1991, cast the country as a fundamentally Christian and European oriented nation. They promoted a particular history, denouncing Communism as ‘Sovietisation’, portraying Georgia as an eternally Christian, crusader, ethnically pure entity, battling rival empires to find its ‘rightful’ place in Europe.

Buoyed by the visit of then US President George Bush to Tbilisi in 2005, Saakashvili made bellicose and fanatic promises to reconquer the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia had long been the recipient of U.S. largesse, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Saakashvili thought his time had come, to be the ‘saviour’ of Georgia. During a brief war in 2008, Georgian forces were quickly and resoundingly defeated. Saakashvili resigned in disgrace, only to reappear in Ukrainian politics as a supporter of Kyiv.

Since the early 2010s, Georgian politics has been dominated by a coalition of ultranationalist politicians known as Georgian Dream – which represents a continuation, rather than break, with the overall political landscape post-1991.

And what of the current protests? The immediate trigger was a proposed bill by the government to register foreign entities working in Georgia as foreign agents. Any organisation which derives more than 20 percent of its funding from overseas was deemed to be a foreign agent.

The proposed law, withdrawn by the Tbilisi authorities after the widespread protests, is similar to U.S. laws designed to track foreign owned operators. In the US, entrepreneurs who receive income from overseas must register with the Department of Justice, and provide reports regarding their operations to keep them transparent.

Misleadingly named the ‘Russian’ law by the corporate media, its character was deemed to be authoritarian, targeting the foreign controlled NGOs which operate in Georgia.

The March 2023 protests certainly witnessed the involvement of individuals motivated by legitimate grievances against the government. However, we cannot neglect the undeniable role of US interference in Georgian affairs.

The scale and political character of these latest demonstrations bear key characteristics of a US sponsored colour revolution, which, if successful, will take Georgia even further down the path of seeking an unattainable integration into Euro-Atlantic imperialist alliance.

Despite the fact that Tbilisi has been making noise about it for over thirty years, full integration of Georgia with the European Union and NATO as an ‘equal partner’ is a mirage. It is an ever-shifting illusion which serves only to motivate Georgians to work as pawns of outside powers.

There are many legitimate grievances to raise against the Georgian authorities. However, marching in lockstep with Washington and London will not bring this illusionary integration any closer. It will result in Georgian lives being used as cannon fodder for future wars.

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