06.06.2024 Author: Henry Kamens

Locking Horns with the Georgian Government: US Proposes Strict Visa Restrictions on its Strategic Partner, Certain Individuals and their Family Members

Locking Horns with the Georgian Government: US Proposes Strict Visa Restrictions on its Strategic Partner

The U.S. is now proposing stringent visa restrictions targeting individuals in the Georgian government and their families, despite Georgia being considered a strategic partner. That is only for starters, considering the Georgia is unwilling to toe-the-line as a US-styled banana republic. 

In fact, from a Georgian perspective, they are pushing us to Russia and to the East, as one retired school teacher explained. “It is becoming a life and death struggle. Yes, it seems that the situation is getting very interesting. Can you imagine 5–6 years ago if someone could predict what is happening now?”

Apparently the US is getting very desperate, to have to revert to such low-level blackmail and arm-twisting tactics, of all things, to impose Visa sanctions over domestic transparency of foreign funding legislation. Tensions have growing between the United States and Georgia, and this is just the latest, due to the Georgian governments’ unwillingness to back down on what it deems to be essential legislation.

The latest move by the US to impose Visa restrictions on Georgian government officials and their families is a response to Georgia’s new “foreign influence” law, which the U.S. perceives, quite unreasonably, as a threat to democracy and freedom of expression. It is also reviewing its relationship with Georgia, whatever that means!

The US State Department claims that passed law stifles civil rights and independent media in Georgia. Hence, US policy will be adjusted to target those who it claims are closely involved in undermining democracy in Georgia, however, no public list of sanctioned individuals will be provided. Such a scheme, regardless of so-called “good intentions”, will likely lead to potential arbitrary visa denials amongst those who apply, including ordinary Georgian citizens.

Nonetheless, these proposed sanctions are considered by a large segment of Georgia society to be nothing but a knee-jerk reaction of the US government, which highlights the deteriorating relationship with its erstwhile strategic partner. This standoff increases the likelihood that such actions could push Georgia even closer to Russia and Asia, and further from Europe.

The mouthpiece media sites of the West even claim, as a result of the will of the Georgian people, which solidifies state sovereignty—that it is a win for Russia. The West just can’t bring itself to accept that The Georgian Parliament has overridden the President’s veto on the Transparency of Foreign Influence law.

As one Georgian, from Batumi on the Black Sea, who has been very politically active, wrote to me:

… it is a very wrong decision… France adopted the same law, Turkey is adopting it, and in many countries this law is already in effect…that Mr. Blinken will restrict the political leaders of these countries and members of their families…ridiculous…this kind of behavior in relation to a friendly country spoils the image of the United States. We understand perfectly the true reason for these steps by the US leadership…this is because of insubordination on a number of issues, and is not for the benefit of Georgia or any of the claims they are using to justify their actions. 

More is involved than meets the eye

I would propose much more is involved, and most has little to do with Georgia and its domestic affairs, but this is being done as a ploy, a distraction, from the ongoing disaster for the US and EU in Ukraine and the genocide in Gaza. The collective refusal of the core of Georgia society to “give into” concerted efforts to diminish it religious, cultural, family and historic values, despite all the money being pumped the West to push these to the side, has obviously infuriated policymakers in both the US and EU.

The NGO community wants Georgians to accept gay marriage and alternative lifestyles as being normal. That just is not going to happen, as recently demonstrated by a pro family march … and there will be push back. It seems to me that the “foggy Bottom” boys (Yes, I assumed their gender) and the Brussels “gender confused” have completely misread the mood of the Georgian public.

The Georgian people have survived so long by refusing to back down over fundamental core values. The US and EU foothold in the Caucasus is imperiled by their assault on the cultural values, as seen by the May 17th parade, the biggest gathering of Georgians in history, in response to the ill-advised decision by Germany to send a gay man to lecture Georgians on the meaning of faith.

Regardless, at least according to the US State Department, there is justification for foreign, including European, meddling in the domestic affairs of Georgia

Over the past few months, the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party has developed and passed a “foreign influence” law that would stifle the exercise of freedoms of association and expression, stigmatize organizations that serve the citizens of Georgia, and impede independent media organizations working to provide Georgians with access to high-quality information.

Cut to the Chase

The US Department of State is going to implement a new visa restriction policy for Georgia that allegedly will apply to individuals who are responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members, i.e., mostly those working in policy positions in the GOG as well as with the ruling GD political party.

This is wide sweeping, as it will apply to “individuals, whether current or former state or non-state actors who are responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Georgia, including through the use of violence, force, or coercion to impede the exercise of civil or political rights, [including but not limited to] immediate family members of such individuals.” 

With friends like this, who needs enemies!

What is really enlightening is that the US State Department will not publish the list of sanctioned people under this scheme, and anyone in the government, even a minor official, family members, etc., will be subject to the time, hope and expense of applying to visit the US and then be arbitrarily turned down. This already is standard operating policy, SOP, as now is the case for most Georgians, including the immediate family members of US citizens, even for the issuance of a simple tourist visa.

What is the real impact of visa restrictions?

One can only think that the US feels that denying visas to government officials will have some sort of major impact, and force Georgian politicians to “return to the fold” like good little sheep. The fact that the US has said that such sanctions will apply to both the Politicians who have voted for the law, and overridden the Georgian president’s attempt to veto it, AND their family members seems to imply that the US wants to affect those not involved in the decision-making process to apply pressure on elected Georgian officials.

I suspect that such an overbearing response will have exactly the opposite effect. The Europeans and the Americans need to understand that Georgians will not accept the infringement of their national sovereignty, and that any attempt to impose western demands on the country will result in many turning towards Russia.

It can be seen in the fact that the current protests against the law appear to be rapidly diminishing in size, particularly since the ill-advised intervention of the Baltic Foreign Ministers and Michael Roth of Germany, and the ill-tempered, even insane, attempts by both the US and EU to promote revolution in Georgia.


Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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