Georgia might be starting the new year with politics that can be described as uncharacteristic to its tradition of blindly believing in the covenant of western political narratives. Shortly before the new year, two significant events took place in Georgia. First, the EU granted Georgia candidate status. Second, the founder of the current ruling party Georgian Dream (GD), Bidzina Ivanishvili, decided to once again return to politics as the honorary party chair.
At a glance, these events might look mutually exclusive for an outside observer. In the case of Ivanishvili, he has been a favorite target of criticism in the west, often accused of being a Moscow’s oligarch and Kremlin’s puppet. Considering that both events took place in December, one can be excused for thinking that the EU has largely acquiesced to his return because of an implicit understanding between Brussels and Tbilisi that the collective west no longer possesses the political wherewithal to remain the arbiter in Georgia’s domestic politics.
Moreover, it was only in March of 2022 that the EU refused to grant membership status to Georgia, the decision which was based on the view that GD failed to complete the controversial twelve point reform plan and the so-called “deoligarchization” process. Therefore, it is not fortuitous that the EU suddenly had a change of heart to elevate Georgia’s status to its potential membership.
If anything, it raises doubts as to what the true intent of its political elite in Brussels might be. The ruling party in Georgia must therefore remain vigilant of the possibility that EU’s decision to grant Georgia status might be a mere political ploy to save face in the midst of declining western influence in the region. In the post “freedom agenda” era, political elites, including the ruling party in Tbilisi have realized to a large extent that narratives that shaped George W. Bush’s foreign policy towards Tbilisi have turned out to be false.
By erecting former president Mikhail Saakashvili’s autocratic regime as an edifice of democracy and modernization, the neoconservative and neoliberal concert managed to distort the idea of western liberal democracy within the Georgian society.
In fairness, it is not that the Georgian people are turning away from democracy or the West in general. Rather it has been the wrongheaded attempt from the west to weaponize the state and society in Georgia to manufacture false dichotomies of pro and anti-western political views that made them question the profundity of blindly following false narratives of the neoliberal agenda.
Having foolishly squandered the political capital that Georgia has been offering to the US since the early days of its independence, neoconservative and neoliberal expansionists have little left to say that will restore collective belief in their program that Georgians have once so naively embraced.
The Current shift from unipolarity to multipolarity in the international system drastically limits chances for both the EU and US to return to excesses of the unipolar world. This new geopolitical configuration creates an opportunity for the current government in Tbilisi to restart talks with Moscow to address the question of frozen conflicts on its territory.
This is why the return of Bidzina Ivanishvili is a significant event. His return raises the possibility, however small, of restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, which will inevitably require developing closer relations with Moscow. If successful, this would be a major shift in regional geopolitics that would finally enable Georgia to meet its vital national security interests.