Latvia must use its influence in Georgia to ensure that the democratic processes there are sustained - Sarts

  • 2024-05-15
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - We as Latvia, as the Baltics, as the West must use our influence in Georgia in a strong manner to ensure that the democratic processes there are maintained, said Jais Sarts, director of the NATO Center of Excellence for Strategic Communications, on Latvian Television last night.

He admitted that the current Georgian government, at least in the ways and forms in which it expresses itself, is far from pro-Western and is increasingly leaning towards Russia.

At the same time, Sarts pointed out that what was happening in Georgia was reminiscent of the events of the Maidan Revolution in Ukraine and the revolution in Belarus, when the public protested against the existing authorities. Sarts believes that we, as Latvia, the Baltics, including the West, must firmly use our influence in Georgia to ensure that the democratic processes there are sustained.

In his view, the political forces in Georgia have crossed a "red line" and realize that there is no turning back. There are no clear leaders at the moment, which is why the current government is targeting those who appear to be leaders, trying to punish them and their relatives.

Speaking about Russia, he pointed out that it has so far clearly demonstrated its unwillingness to give NATO a reason to go to war, but that this is under the circumstances and conditions that NATO is decisive, ready to act and able to do so.

Sarts also noted that Russia will put particular emphasis on hybrid operations this year, i.e. sabotage, information operations as well as cyber-attacks. In his assessment, Latvia has to take this into account, but Latvia is not Russia's main target at the moment.

The AFP news agency reports that Georgia's parliament on Tuesday adopted a controversial "foreign influence" law that has sparked weeks of mass protests against the measure, which Brussels has warned would undermine Tbilisi's European aspirations.

The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies "pursuing the interests of a foreign power".

Lawmakers voted 84 to 30 in favor during the third and final reading of the law, which was widely denounced as mirroring repressive Russian legislation used to silence dissent.

The vote came as street protesters skirmished with riot police outside the building in the center of the capital, where demonstrations have taken place over the last month.

Scuffles had broken out inside the chamber earlier as opposition lawmakers clashed with members of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Critics say the bill is a symbol of the ex-Soviet republic's drift closer to Russia's orbit over recent years.

Around 2,000 mainly young protesters gathered outside parliament and chanted "no to the Russian law", as news spread that lawmakers had adopted the law.

Tbilisi has seen weeks of mass rallies over the bill that culminated on Saturday, when up to 100,000 people took to the streets in the largest anti-government rally in Georgia's recent history.

The EU has said the law is "incompatible" with Georgia's longstanding bid to join the 27-nation bloc, while Washington has warned its adoption would signal Tbilisi's departure from the Western orbit.