Implications of Georgia’s Democratic Backsliding 


On Monday, February 6, Georgia’s court rejected the release of their former president Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili is a tragic hero in Georgian history, but he is mostly remembered for attempting to transform Georgia from a post-Soviet state into a liberal democracy. After coming to power following the Rose Revolution in 2003, Saakashvili rapidly perused policies to bring Georgia into the West’s embrace. Georgia was soon recognized as the most democratic nation of the Caucasus, most notably in 2005 when U.S. President George W. Bush declared Georgia to be “a beacon for liberty in this region and the world,” during an official visit to Tbilisi. To ensure security for democratic and stable development, the Georgian government sought both EU and NATO membership. To support its case as a security partner, Georgia had made a significant contribution to the US and NATO-led combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — Georgia was the largest-per-capita contributor to the mission and the fourth-largest overall contributor. Neither,  however, occurred. In August of 2008, Russian troops invaded Georgia under the guise of protecting separatist movements. Many experts argued that having a flourishing liberal democracy on its border posed a threat to Putin’s regime. 

Today, Georgia finds itself in a precarious position. Russian troops still occupy 20 percent of its land, serving as a constant reminder of the consequence of attempting to flee from the Kremlin’s grasp. The country is governed by the Georgian Dream party, which is not “pro-Russian,” but they view it to be advantageous to strengthen economic ties with their neighbor to the north. The Georgian people, however, disagree with this decision and many believe their future still lies with the United States and the EU. As American policymakers reflect on how to help Ukraine fight off Russia’s invasion, Georgia is a good reminder of how a genuine desire for democracy can be suppressed by external authoritarian forces. 

Questions and Background

  • What are the parallels between Putin’s invasion of Georgia and Ukraine? 
  • What in your mind contributed to Georgia’s democratic backsliding? 
  • Does the future of Georgia as a liberal democracy matter for the region and for US interests? 

How Georgia Stumbled on the Road to Europe
Thomas de Waal. Foreign Policy. July 7, 2022.

A Country on the Verge: The Case for Supporting Georgia
David J. Kramer and Ian Kelly. The German Marshall Fund. March, 2021.

End the Russian veto on Georgian accession
Luke Coffey and Alexis Mrachek. Atlantic Council. October 14, 2020.   

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