Pro-Russian Ruling Elite in Georgia Announce West as Enemy and Hunt for ‘Western Agents’

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 67


Executive Summary:

  • The ruling Georgian Dream party organized a march in favor of their foreign agents bill as a response to two weeks of continuous protests against the bill.
  • Western leaders expressed concern for the foreign agents bill, threatening to impose sanctions against Georgia’s ruling elite and withdraw financial support from the country if it is passed.
  • The Georgian government’s push for this bill signifies a decision by the ruling elite to turn away from the West and toward Russia.

On April 29, the ruling party of Georgia, the Georgian Dream, staged a so-called “Russian march” in the center of Tbilisi (YouTube/TV Pirveli, April 29). The march was organized in support of the law on foreign agents, which was reintroduced to formalize the country’s move from a pro-Western political course toward Moscow. At the rally, the informal leader of both Georgian Dream and the country, Bidzina Ivanishvili, announced his party’s intentions to distance Georgia from the West and implement more authoritarian policies—beginning with repression against political opponents, the media, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (YouTube/FormulaNews, April 29). Ivanishvili alluded to the alleged presence of a pro-Western elite in the country. He called them “agents” and promised that, after the parliamentary elections in October 2024, he would punish them (YouTube/FormulaNews, April 29). The Georgian billionaire practically promised to fulfill the desire of Kremlin ideologist Aleksandr Dugin, who recently called on the Georgian authorities to destroy the “fifth column” in Georgia (Ekho Kavkaza, April 15).

Georgian Dream officials included in their anti-Western propaganda the need to protect religious values and the Georgian Orthodox Church. Those speaking at the rally claimed that the West is using Georgian NGOs to compromise the Church’s activities. A few days before the pro-government march, the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church issued a statement that effectively supported the foreign agents law. According to the official post, “The line of confrontation in society today passes through the struggle for or against the values and sovereignty of the state. … For many years, NGOs and foreign-funded television channels have been waging campaigns to discredit the Church” (Facebook/SazuPatriarchate, April 27, 2024).

Georgian Dream organized the march in response to two weeks of continuous protests against the bill and expected change in Georgia’s foreign policy in favor of Russia (YouTube/Droeba, April 28). Without public support, the government tried to create the appearance of backing for its pro-Russian course artificially. On April 29, it forcibly brought civil service employees and teachers (mostly elderly people) onto the streets of Tbilisi to demonstrate their “support” (YouTube/Mtavari Arkhi, April 29). Local media organizations have reported that most participants were gathered against their will, and many were ashamed of their participation (YouTube/TV Pirveli, April 29). Some outlets suggested that participants were offered cash and food (Facebook/TV Pirveli, April 29). Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili called the event a “Putin-esque” action (, April 29).

At the rally, Ivanishvili identified the West as the main threat to Georgia’s sovereignty, alleging that Western capitals were trying to overthrow the Georgian Dream government and bring their agents to power (Facebook/Georgian Dream, April 29). Ivanishvili said that the West pushed Georgia into confrontation with Russia in 2008. This statement is reminiscent of the Kremlin’s rhetoric that Georgia attacked the Tskhinvali region due to Western instigation in 2008. Over the past years, the ruling elite has actively used the term “global war party” in the same way Moscow uses the term “collective West.” This time, the informal leader of Georgia declared that “the global war party has a decisive influence on NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and the European Union” (, April 29).

Ivanishivili also thumbed his nose at the West, saying that he was not going anywhere and would continue to defend Georgian sovereignty and its national identity (Facebook/Georgian Dream, April 29). He intimated increased repression in the country when he stated that, after the parliamentary elections in October, the United National Movement (UNM) will be held legally responsible. Although UNM refers to the largest opposition party in Georgia, the government uses it to reference all parts of the opposition, as well as NGOs, media organizations, and even some foreign politicians.

The Georgian Dream government was forced to take such an extreme step after the European Parliament approved a resolution on April 25. The measure recommends that, if the Georgian parliament approves the law on foreign agents, Brussels should impose sanctions on members of parliament from the ruling party, high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Ivanishvili himself. In addition, the resolution calls on EU executive bodies to consider suspending the current visa-free travel regime with Georgia. These recommendations greatly angered the Georgian Dream ruling elite, who called the resolution a “wastepaper,” “another trick,” and “blackmail” (;, April 25;, April 27).

On April 26, a bipartisan group of US senators sent a letter to Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze expressing deep concern. They warned Kobakhidze that, if the reintroduced bill becomes law, they will be forced to promote changes in US policy toward Georgia, which could include enacting sanctions, reconsidering financial assistance, and expanding visa restrictions (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, April 26). Current Georgian Dream Chair Irakli Garibashvili characterized the note as a “misunderstanding,” while parliamentary chair Shalva Papuashvili called itdisappointing” (;, April 27).

The ruling elite of Georgia are afraid of personal sanctions from the West. The majority of members of the government and Georgian Dream deputies’ children study and live in the United States or EU member states, and many of the elite themselves own real estate and have bank accounts in the West. In this way, the Georgian elite is very similar to the Russian elite who, on the one hand, despise the West, but on the other hand, enjoy the privilege of having their family members live comfortably in Western countries.

Young Georgians are especially angry with the ruling elite’s double standards. The rulers have already secured a European future for their children, personally, while they actively deprived those they rule of their desire for a European future for Georgia as a whole. Instead, the nation is being pulled toward Russia. For a long time, the Georgian Dream government hoped that it could successfully blackmail the West by demonstrating that Georgia is a strategically important country in the wider region. The leaders of Georgian Dream hoped that, despite the rollback of democratic values in Georgia, the West would be forced to come to terms with the increasingly undemocratic government so as not to risk pushing Tbilisi away. It is obvious that the ruling elite of Georgia, as a result of the European Parliament’s resolution and the warning letter from US senators, have determined that the West will not work with the increasingly oligarchic regime in Tbilisi. As such, Ivanishvili and his followers have most likely made their final choice in favor of the Kremlin.