Watch the Video: Georgians Protest Passing of Foreign Agents Law—a Discussion with Georgian Member of Parliament Ana Natsvlishvili and Former Ambassador William Courtney

About the Event

May 26 marked the 106th anniversary of Georgia’s adoption of the Act of Independence in 1918. The country experienced a brief period of freedom before it was occupied by Soviet forces. Ninety years later, Russia again violated Georgia’s sovereignty by occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia, effectively seizing a fifth of the country’s territory. In April, the ruling Georgian Dream party reintroduced the “Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence” that, just last year, it withdrew amid widespread public protest. Georgian citizens, both young and old, are fighting for the country’s democratic future against an increasingly pro-Russian government and Moscow’s neo-imperial aspirations.

Tens of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets against the “Russian law” in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, and elsewhere. Public protests have been met with widespread violence and intimidation by law enforcement and gangs of thugs, who have gone so far as to severely beat several opposition figures. On May 28, the Georgian Parliament overrode the presidential veto to pass the “Russian law,” which requires all NGOs financed by Western donors to register as “organizations acting in the interests of external forces.” The passing of the law underlines the Georgian Dream government’s strong turn toward Russia and will undoubtedly lead to further tensions between Tbilisi and the West. Georgia stands at a crossroads as the population, led by a youthful resurgence, fights the Georgian Dream government’s reorientation away from the West toward Russia and China.

Jamestown held a virtual discussion with Georgian MP Ana Natsvlishvili on the implications of this law’s passing and what it means for Georgia’s future. The discussion was moderated by Jamestown Senior Fellow Margarita Assenova, and was followed by comments from former US Ambassador William Courtney.



About the Speakers

Ana Natsvlishvili is a Georgian Member of Parliament and part of the parliamentary political group “Lelo – Partnership for Georgia.” Natshvlishvili chaired one of Georgia’s most influential NGOs, the Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association, from 2014 to 2017, and has a long track record of defending human rights and democratic reform in Georgia.

William Courtney, U.S. Ambassador (retired), is an adjunct senior fellow at RAND. He co-chairs the international advisory council of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission and chaired the board of trustees of Eurasia Foundation. As a foreign service officer in the U.S. Department of State, he served overseas in Brasilia, Moscow, Geneva, Almaty, and Tbilisi. He was Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Georgia, and the U.S.-Soviet Commission to implement the Threshold Test Ban Treaty. He belongs to the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council on Foreign Relations. He has a BA from West Virginia University and a PhD from Brown University in economics.

Margarita Assenova is a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation. She is a regular contributor to Jamestown’s Eurasia Daily Monitor, covering political and energy security developments in the Balkans and Central Asia. Mrs. Assenova is a recipient of the John Knight Professional Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University for her reporting on nationalism in the Balkans. She has authored book chapters and journal articles on security, energy, and democracy published by CSIS Press, Brassey’s, Freedom House, Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers, the University of New Haven, and The Jamestown Foundation.