The Georgian government is escalating attacks on Western diplomats
The European Union and the United States have had to publicly defend their ambassadors in Tbilisi against a campaign of attacks by Georgia’s ruling party, reports Eurasianet.org. Although Georgia’s ruling party, the Georgian Dream, promises to fulfil the EU’s conditions for candidacy status, it has recently escalated its attacks on the envoys from the US and the EU to Tbilisi.
The US Ambassador Kelly Degnan has become embroiled in conspiracy theories about alleged attempts to drag Georgia into the war in Ukraine and accusations of interference in Georgia’s judiciary. Moreover, outgoing EU ambassador Carl Hartzell was sharply blamed, on his way out of the country, for not doing enough to help Georgia get into the bloc.
Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, told reporters that Hartzell “played only a negative role in the EU-Georgia relations.” Furthermore, Nikoloz Samkahradze, the head of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, added that Hartzell “could have worked better to help Georgia get [EU] candidate status.”
The apparently unprovoked jabs drew a response from Brussels, which had recently extended the deadline for Tbilisi to meet its conditions from the end of this year to later next year, writes Eurasianet.org. “Blaming others for own unfulfilled ambitions only confirms the need to have more time to understand how EU works and that reforms are homework,” EU external affairs spokesperson Peter Stano tweeted on July 21 in his reaction.
Meanwhile, a war of words between US Ambassador Kelly Degnan and the government escalated this month after over ten people formally left the ruling Georgian Dream party to, as they alleged, speak more candidly in public about a conspiracy to involve Georgia in war with Russia.
On July 8, Degnan said she “couldn’t even finish reading “an appeal addressed to her by Mikheil Kavelashvii, one of three MPs who recently ‘left’ the ruling party. In the letter, Kavelashvili criticised Degnan for failing to distance herself from or condemn the opposition United National Movement party (UNM) and various government critics, including watchdog groups, the Georgian Public Defender, and President Volodymyr Zelensky and other Ukrainian leaders, for their alleged wish to involve Georgia in a war with Russia. Degnan described the letter as “full of lies and conspiracy theories “that “sounded really unhinged” to her.
Kavelashvili is one of several members of parliament who recently split from the Georgian Dream majority, citing the need to speak the “truth” more openly. But the group is widely believed to still be acting on party orders to give voice to more hardline positions and conspiracy theories, notably that the West is somehow trying to drag Georgia into the Ukraine war.
“A question arises whether there was a meeting between Kelly Degnan and Bidzina Ivanishvili in the wake of the Ukraine war. Was he asked something, or is he being blackmailed on these grounds because this person is out [of politics], is not involved in anything?” deputy Mikheil Kavelashvili told reporters on July 19.
Degnan denied the accusations. “I have not met with Mr Ivanishvili in quite some time,” she told reporters on July 21, adding that in none of the meetings she had had with him did she try to blackmail him. Later, on July 27, Degnan confirmed having met with Bidzina Ivanishvili but denied any discussion between them about Georgia involving itself in the war. Degnan said she met with ruling party founder Ivanishvili on March 21. Their meeting focused on the US-Georgia strategic partnership and American efforts to support the development of Georgia’s security, economy, and democracy.
“I’ll say it very clearly so that no one else has any questions — there was never any talk of Georgia’s participation in the Russian war against Ukraine, or blackmail, or actions related to a delay in transferring money to Mr Ivanishvili. You should address these questions to him or to those specific banks,” the ambassador said.
Ivanishvili, a billionaire who founded Georgian Dream before formally retiring from politics last year, is still widely believed to be the country’s informal ruler. Earlier this year, his associates reported that he had experienced mysterious obstacles in accessing his assets at the Swiss bank Credit Suisse, as well as in other business dealings in the US and Europe.