Irakli Garibashvili attracts criticism for comments on the war in Ukraine at GLOBSEC
Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia, took part in a topical debate while in Bratislava to attend the Global Security Forum (GLOBSEC) from May 29 to 31. At the discussion, which was also attended by Georgian Defence Minister Juansher Burchuladze and Georgian Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili, Garibashvili said that “everyone knows” that NATO Enlargement was one of the main reasons for the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine. “I don’t want to quote the statements of the Russian Government, but one of the reasons was Ukraine’s will and determination to become a member of NATO. Therefore we see the consequence”, said Garibashvili.
“Now we are witnessing this brutal war in Ukraine, and as I said, we don’t see any efforts or any will from either side that this war should be stopped”, Garibashvili added. He also repeated his party’s claims that the ruling Georgian Dream party was responsible for “peace in the country”, going so far as to state that had they been in power in 2008, the August War would have been avoided. He also stated that international reactions to that war were “disappointing” as sanctions were not imposed on Russia and “everybody continued business as usual”.
While Garibashvili’s fellow party members supported his claims, opposition and European political figures were quick to criticise his statements, reports OC Media. Ani Tsitlidze, a United National Movement opposition party member, described Garibashvili’s claims that the war in Ukraine was attributable to Ukraine’s intent to join NATO as “treason and cooperation with the enemy”.
Ana Natsvlishvili, a member of the Lelo party, added that Garibashvili had “crossed out [Georgia’s prospects] not only for the European Union but also for NATO”. Western political figures and commentators also criticised the Prime Minister’s positions. “Govorit Moskva!” [Moscow speaks!], wrote MEP Rasa Juknevičienė on Twitter, also responding to Garibashvili’s comment about Russia’s war in Ukraine being the consequence of ‘NATO enlargement’.
Former American congressman Adam Kinzinger called for sanctions against the party’s founder. “Georgian Dream isn’t even hiding their Putinism [sic] anymore. It’s time to sanction Ivanishvili and others. They have led their country on a path to failure”, wrote Kinzinger. “For Garibashvili to say this, he is under the influence of someone.. and it’s not the Georgian people”.
On May 30, activists from the civil anti-government organisation GEUT (Stubborn) staged a picket in protest to Garibashvili’s statements. In a video published by the activist Gela Khasaia, Police approached a small group of demonstrators holding posters and started confiscating the signs, ripping some in the process. Some protesters held signs with photographs of Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, while another held a poster featuring the Georgian flag and an anti-Russian poem written by historic Georgian poet Akaki Tsereteli.
Public Defender’s Office issued a statement regarding the incident, stating that the posters were confiscated “for a completely incomprehensible reason and in a rude manner”. The statement added that the action did not correspond to the obligation of law enforcement officers to promote “the full exercise of [citizens’] rights, including through various means of expression”.