In Georgia

By Kit Klarenberg originally published on The Greyzone.

US-EU assets pushing color revolution in Georgia

Over 25,000 NGOs are active in Georgia, and most rely on funding from Europe and the US. A new bill aiming to reign in Western meddling has sparked furious anti-government protests explicitly encouraged by Washington.

A dark political atmosphere is swirling over the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, and grows more ominous by the day. Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has been told by an EU commissioner he will suffer the fate of Robert Fico, the Slovakian leader still fighting for his life after an assassination attempt by a Ukraine proxy war ultra. US lawmakers are moving to sanction members of the ruling Georgian Dream party, and in parliament on May 14, opposition MP Tako Charkviani threatened: “Believe me, there will be a color revolution in Georgia.”

The cause of this tumult is a bill known as the “foreign influence transparency” law which would compel organizations to publicly disclose their foreign funding. For weeks, the streets of Tbilisi have been filled with tens of thousands of protesters who are demanding that authorities dump the law, which they believe will compromise Georgia’s path to EU membership. Despite vehement condemnation from EU and US officials, the bill has now passed. The US has since threatened to impose visa restrictions on legislators who supported the legislation, and protesters show no sign of giving up.

The sincerity of citizens who continue to occupy public spaces in Tbilisi, for fear their government’s actions will sabotage Georgia’s EU aspirations, cannot be doubted. But there are clear indications that many have been severely misled about the nature of the new law, with some reportedly convinced it will mandate mass surveillance and compel the public to denounce their neighbors as “foreign agents.”

The drive to misinform Georgians about the bill is led primarily by foreign media outlets and foreign-funded NGOs themselves. Today, over 25,000 NGOs are active in Georgia, and nearly all receive foreign funding. Many are bankrolled by the EU, which finances over 130 separate “active projects” and 19,000 small and medium-sized businesses in the country. American intelligence cutouts USAID, and CIA front NED, are also prominent backers of the sector.

Together, these foreign-backed elements are mobilizing their constituents into the streets for a new round of protests that ultimately aim to bring the government down and replace it with one that suits the interests of Brussels and Washington.

Above: Georgians wave US and Ukrainian flags as they protest the government’s proposed “foreign influence transparency law”. Video by Rami Yahiah.

Western-financed NGO-industrial-complex

Many foreign-funded NGOs are explicitly concerned with integrating Georgia into the EU, NATO, and other “Euro-Atlantic” structures. Among them is the Shame Movement, which has been at the forefront of the recent unrest in Tbilisi. NED grant records indicate that it received just shy of $80,000 in 2021 for “engaging regional youth activists,” helping young Georgians address political “challenges” and advocate “for governmental accountability.”

Oddly, an NED entry indicating the Shame Movement also received over $90,000 that year “to promote democratic accountability and effective oversight of the Georgian parliament” has been removed. It noted that the organization was charged with tracking “votes and statements of all parliamentarians and maintain online profiles detailing this information.” Was this initiative ultimately concerned with creating a ‘hit list’ of MPs who vote the “wrong” way, from the West’s perspective?

The Shame Movement was similarly involved in unrest in 2023, when Georgian Dream attempted to implement comparable legislation to the “foreign influence transparency” law, only to capitulate after vast, violent crowds threatened to overrun parliament, scenes similarly soundtracked by relentless hostile broadsides from Western officials.

A Wall Street Journal report at the time made the organization’s loathing for the government abundantly clear, quoting a Shame Movement spokesperson describing Georgian Dream as a Kremlin proxy “aimed at pushing the nation closer to Russia and further from the EU.” They claimed the government “can’t come out and say they are pro-Russia and anti-EU integration because they would get a huge amount of backlash from the public, so they are trying to boil us like a frog slowly. They are trying and doing everything they can to sabotage Georgia’s EU integration process.”

At home and abroad, the Western propaganda line that Georgian Dream serves Russian interests, or is somehow a Kremlin pawn, has been repeated with increasing frequency since the anti-“foreign influence transparency” demonstrations erupted. Evidence to the contrary has been summarily ignored by Western opinion makers, with influential DC-based foreign policy think tank Carnegie Endowment going as far as deleting a detailed report that comprehensively debunked the charge.

In reality, Georgian Dream has since taking office in 2012 struck a delicate balance between strengthening Western ties, and maintaining civil coexistence with neighboring Russia. In order to join the EU, the government has jumped through every Brussels-mandated hoop, satisfied every stated condition for membership, and was formally granted candidate status in December 2023. Yet, this has become an ever-fraught dance since February 2022, with external pressure to impose sanctions on Moscow and send arms to Ukraine perpetually rising.

The Tbilisi offices of the Information Center on NATO and EU, a NATO-sponsored initiative which says its goal is to “engage our population in Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes and to gain their well-informed support”

Strict compliance with Western sanctions regimes and public condemnations of the Russian invasion are evidently inadequate for Brussels, Kiev, London, and Washington. In December 2022, Garibashvili claimed that the Ukrainian government had repeatedly demanded Tbilisi open a “second front” in the proxy conflict against Russia. His refusal was met with a firm rebuke, which in turn resulted in Georgian Dream’s branding as a Kremlin proxy, and therefore a legitimate target for regime change operations.

Unlike in 2023, the government has refused to back down on enforcing “foreign influence transparency” in the face of Western condemnation and violent mobs flooding the Georgian capital’s streets. On May 3, Prime Minister Kobakhidze issued a fiery statement, accusing the US of orchestrating two failed coups in Tbilisi since 2020.

These efforts, he asserted, were “carried out through NGOs financed from external sources,” and inspired by “false statements” made by Kelly C. Degnan, US ambassador to Tbilisi until last year. Kobakhidze was referring to the diplomat accusing Georgian Dream of being Kremlin puppets. These allegations “served the facilitation of violence from foreign funded actors,” he contended. Referencing White House complaints about local police responses to the ongoing demonstrations, he noted wryly, “I have not expressed my concerns… about a brutal crackdown” on student Palestine solidarity protesters two days earlier in New York City.

Shaping the color revolution theater

Longtime Georgian leader and former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze opened the floodgates for NGOs seeking a toehold in his country by allowing foreign-financed civil society organizations to operate in the country without much if any oversight. At the time a Western darling, with this act he signed his own political death warrant. As a since-deleted article on USAID’s website once noted, Western-backed NGOs went on to “promote democratic and liberal values,” which gravely undermined his government.

“For example, in 1999 US funding helped Georgians draw up and build support for a Freedom of Information Law, which the government adopted. That law allowed the media and NGOs to investigate government budgets, force the firing of a corrupt minister, and give people a sense that they should regulate the government,” the report continued. Vast sums were also allocated to training “lawyers, judges, journalists, members of parliament, NGOs, political party leaders” in the art of color revolution.

This led to the 2003 Rose Revolution, which toppled Shevardnadze, and installed Mikheil Saakashvili, a US-groomed politician personally approved by billionaire CIA cutout George Soros. A participant in the insurrection quoted in the deleted USAID article acknowledged, “without foreign assistance I’m not sure we would have been able to achieve what we did… USAID supported civil society and created a network of civic minded people.” Elsewhere, a Saakashvili associate declared Washington had “helped good people get rid of a bad and corrupted government.”

 

Foreign-funded NGOs exert an outsized and toxic influence in Tbilisi, having “long-colonized most areas of public policy and services,” as a May 2 essay by LeftEast noted. These organizations “get their mandate from international bodies, which draw up and pay for to-do lists of policy reforms for Georgia,” and “lack an incentive to consider the impact of the projects they implement because they are not accountable to the citizens in whose lives they play such an intrusive role.”

While this “has eroded Georgian citizens’ agency and the country’s sovereignty and democracy,” the “foreign influence transparency” law will not in fact address these issues, the authors argue. The legislation is instead concerned with countering “a small but powerful clique” of well-funded NGOs aligned with Saakashvili and his United National Movement (UNM), which “engage in openly partisan politics” to undermine Georgian Dream. As can be seen in the current round of protests, this retinue props up opposition parties while clamoring for the government’s ouster.

 

Despite the presence of foreign media at every protest, pro-EU demonstrators unironically play Gil Scott-Heron’s iconic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Video by Rami Yahiah.

Georgian Legion war criminals plan coup

Saakashvili ostensibly runs the UNM from prison in Tbilisi. Having fled Georgia and taken up residence in Ukraine as governor of Odesa at Petro Poroshenko’s invitation post-Maidan after losing power in 2012, he returned in October 2021. Upon arrival, he was jailed for ordering violent attacks on political rivals, and helping one of his ministers cover up a hideous murder they personally directed. President Zourabichvili has pledged she will “never” pardon the former leader.

Recent polls place the party’s public support at just 9.6% – significantly lower than Georgian Dream’s 31.4%. Despite his fading popularity, Saakashvili’s supporters appear determined to bust him out of prison, by hook or by crook. In September 2023, Georgian security officials warned “a coup a la Euromaidan” was being prepared locally.  Named plotters included ethnic Georgians working for the Ukrainian government: Giorgi Lortkipanidze, Kiev’s deputy military intelligence chief; Mikhail Baturin, Saakashvili’s former bodyguard; and Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the notorious Georgian Legion.

Above: A pro-EU demonstrator in Tblisi sports a Georgian Legion flag. Video by Rami Yahiah.

Mamulashvili is centrally implicated in the February 2014 false flag sniper massacre of Maidan protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, which was pivotal in unseating President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a nationalist government primed for war with Russia. The Georgian warlord apparently brought the shooters to Kiev to create “chaos” by opening fire on crowds, providing them with weapons for the purpose. This time round, security officials said, anti-government activists, trained near Ukraine’s border with Poland, would set up a “tent city” in Tbilisi, much like the one erected in Kiev’s Maidan Square. Then, a false flag bombing would take place at the site, triggering mass violent upheaval.

Allegedly planned for some time between October and December 2023, the bloody plot never came to pass. Nonetheless, police discovered activists from a US government-backed group called CANVAS operating in Tbilisi at the time, suggesting something malign was indeed afoot. CANVAS grew out of Otpor, an NED-created dissident youth group instrumental in the overthrow of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Thereafter, its activists began training regime change operatives the world over on Washington’s dime.

Among the recipients of CANVAS’ expertise were members of Kmara, a youth resistance movement at the forefront of the 2003 Rose Revolution, directly modeled on Otpor, logo and all. That event has shaped Georgia’s politics and society ever since, and looms large in the minds of many citizens, its historic connotations viewed both positively and negatively. Opposition MP Tako Charkviani undoubtedly knew precisely what she was doing when she forcefully promised a fresh color revolution in Tbilisi.

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