Georgia, colour revolutions and the ever-shifting mirage of Euro-Atlantic integration

The former Soviet republic of Georgia experienced large antigovernment 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 Georgian 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 Georgian of all its ethnic minorities.

Provoking the ethnic enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to secede from Georgia, Gamsakhurdia failed to unite his nation. The economic collapse of Georgia, mirroring that of Russia and other ex-Soviet republics, was appalling.

Rival mafiosi groups fought each other for control, and federal governmental authority was crumbling. Ousted in a near civil war by rival Georgian 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 former and 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 in Georgia, on the rationale 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 a Gamsakhurdia-loyalist rebellion, Shevardnadze failed to stabilise the inherent turbulence of 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 was building. The post-communist politicians failed to solve any of Georgia’s long term sociopolitical 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 Tbilisi.

Georgia, located on the Black Sea, is within reach of the oil-rich Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan, with its tremendous oil reserves, has cooperated with foreign oil multinationals to build pipelines to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. These pipelines, originating in the Caspian, pas through Georgian territory – the Baku Tbilisi Ceyhan pipeline is a major artery for the global oil industry.

The 2003 Rose revolution was a US-orchestrated regime change operation, utilising the soft power of US funded NGOs inside Georgia to push for a more pro-western orientation. Shevardnadze was ousted, and US 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. Preaching a free market fundamentalism, Saakashvili made the Georgian economy dependent on tourism, an outflow of cheap labour, and financially parasitic activities.

Georgia intended to join Nato, an objective set out by Shevardnadze. Saakashvili continued this pro-imperialist course, supporting the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, sending 1000 troops to participate in that effort. Donald Rumsfeld, then US Secretary of Defence, visited Tbilisi in 2003.

The Georgian authorities, since 1991, cast the country as a fundamentally Christian and European oriented nation. They promoted a particular history of Georgia, 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 in 2005 to Tbilisi, Saakashvili made bellicose and fanatic promises to reconquer the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia had long been the recipient of US largesse, to the tune of billions of dollars. Saakashvili thought his time had come, to be the ‘saviour’ of Georgia. After 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. 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 US laws designed to track foreign owned operators. Misleadingly named the ‘Russian’ law, its character was deemed to be authoritarian, targeting the foreign owned NGOs which operate in Georgia. 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.

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 s demonstrations bear all the characteristics of a US sponsored colour revolution, which will take Georgia further down the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.

Integration with the European Union and the NATO imperialist alliance is but a mirage; 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. Marching in lockstep with Washington and London will not bring this vaunted integration any closer, but will result in Georgian lives being used as cannon fodder for future wars.

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