Russia is losing in Ukraine but winning in Georgia


By Giorgi Kandelaki

Aug 31

With attention at NATO’s July summit in Vilnius firmly focused on Ukraine’s membership prospects, the absence of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili received relatively little attention. And yet this absence reflected an ongoing geopolitical shift in the wider Black Sea region with potentially major consequences for international security. While Russia is losing in Ukraine, there are growing indications that the Kremlin is winning in Georgia.

Weeks before this summer’s NATO summit, Georgian PM Garibashvili sparked international headlines by blaming NATO for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This statement reportedly caused the alliance to deny Garibashvili a place at the summit, according to German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Garibashvili’s comments were controversial but hardly exceptional. Indeed, they reflected the Georgian government’s broader turn away from Euro-Atlantic integration and toward the Kremlin.

In July 2023, Georgia signed a strategic partnership with China, signaling a further shift away from the West amid growing signs of Beijing’s tacit support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Georgian government has not only embraced Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative, but has also indicated support for other Chinese foreign policy ventures that appear designed to counterbalance the West in general and the United States in particular. This trend should be on the radar of all Western policymakers.

Western leaders should know that downplaying the geopolitical changes currently taking place in Georgia is short-sighted. The West’s weak response to Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia is now widely seen as a major strategic blunder that emboldened Vladimir Putin and set the stage for the genocidal invasion of Ukraine. Fifteen years on, the revival of Russian influence in Georgia is helping to convince Putin that despite major setbacks, he will ultimately be able to achieve his goals in Ukraine.

While the Western world has united in opposition to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Georgia has stood aside and has instead adopted a range of Kremlin-friendly policies. Crucially, the Georgian authorities have flatly refused to join international sanctions against Russia. Meanwhile, Tbilisi recently restored direct flights with Russia, despite calls from the EU and US not to do so. Government officials have also echoed Kremlin propaganda accusing the West of attempting to pressure Georgia into attacking Russia.

Meanwhile, critics have accused the Georgian authorities of embracing anti-democratic policies similar to those adopted by Russia in recent decades. In spring 2023, the ruling Georgian Dream party attempted to implement new laws that closely mirrored existing Russian legislation targeting civil society organizations as “foreign agents.” This initiative was eventually blocked by large-scale public protests, but efforts to demonize civil society and the country’s political opposition have continued.

The impact of Russian propaganda in the Georgian information space is another problematic issue that is particularly evident in the rehabilitation of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. For years, the Putin regime has promoted a revisionist approach to Stalin, portraying him a strong leader whose role in securing victory over Nazi Germany outweighs his crimes. Among Georgian audiences, Russia has successfully utilized Stalin’s Georgian roots, with the Soviet dictator emerging as a figurehead for an anti-Western strain of Georgian nationalism that aligns closely with Kremlin narratives.

In recent years, 11 new statues to Stalin have been erected in Georgia, while one recent Georgian opinion poll found almost 46% of respondents agreed that “patriotic Georgians should be proud of Stalin.” This change in attitudes toward Stalin has yet to attract much attention in the West, but it serves to highlight the vulnerability of Georgian society to Russian information warfare.

Failing to address Georgia’s slide into Russia’s geopolitical orbit would be a costly mistake. To avoid this outcome, Washington and Brussels need to adopt clear policies. Time is of the essence. As Russian influence continues to grow in today’s Georgia, Western leverage is inevitably diminishing. It is vital that the West puts its legitimate leverage to work without delay to demonstrate that further steps toward Moscow will come with considerable costs. This would help the Georgian people to democratically reverse the country’s dangerous current trajectory.

The alternative would be disastrous for Georgia, Ukraine, and Western interests. If Putin is able to reassert Russian dominance over Georgia and derail the country’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions while continuing to occupy twenty percent of the country, he will be encouraged to believe that a similar outcome will eventually prove possible in Ukraine. That would prolong the current war and pave the way for further acts of Russian aggression.

Giorgi Kandelaki is a former Georgian MP and a former Chair of the Georgian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He is currently a project manager at the Soviet Past Research Laboratory (Sovlab), a think-tank dedicated to researching Georgia’s totalitarian past and countering the weaponization of history.


  1. “Western leaders should know that downplaying the geopolitical changes currently taking place in Georgia is short-sighted. The West’s weak response to Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia is now widely seen as a major strategic blunder that emboldened Vladimir Putin and set the stage for the genocidal invasion of Ukraine. Fifteen years on, the revival of Russian influence in Georgia is helping to convince Putin that despite major setbacks, he will ultimately be able to achieve his goals in Ukraine.”

    Do not let Georgia fall to putler.
    Its people hate the roosky mir as much as the Ukrainians do. For obvious reasons.
    Georgia Dream party is owned, bought and paid for by putler. It runs sham elections on the putler model and is slowly murdering poor Saakashvili on putler’s orders.
    The allies (word probably deserves to be in parentheses), should look to incorporate Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan and others into Nato.
    Hopefully Belarus too if the putler puppet there can be overthrown.

    • I’d hate to see Georgia fall further into the Moskali influence but isn’t it up to the Georgians to do something. Our people are dying for what they believe. Isn’t it time for the Georgian’s stand up and be counted? I’m not without sympathy but I am an ardent believer in “God helps those who help themselves.”

      • Like what?
        Georgians rose up against the bastards in Tbilisi in 1989 and were massacred. Google The April 9 Tragedy.
        Abkhazia 1992, there was a genocide of ethnic Georgians; many thousands of innocents were murdered and 250,00 displaced. An enormous amount for such a small place. It is still under RuZZian occupation.
        Then in 2003, they had the Rose Revolution, which brought Saakashvili to power.
        So successful was he that in 2008 putler decided to crush the thriving democracy that he created. In 5 days of war, putler committed savage atrocities; the like of which we are only too familiar.
        Since Georgia Dream took power, it has became a police state once more. Nevertheless Georgians take to the streets regularly. Last year they managed to stop the putlerite “foreign agent” law.
        Putler’s succubus Zakharova has threatened on his behalf to bomb Tbilisi, but they still protest.
        What else can they do? They have no reliable friends. Only fair weather friends.
        We think that the level of assistance provided to Ukraine is bad; Georgia’s is non-existent.
        I might add that thousands of Georgian volunteers have died fighting for Ukraine since 2014.

        • Scradgel I don’t mean to be insensitive or uncaring. Also, I’m not judging as that would be unfair for anyone to judge unless you wear their shoes. BUT if there was a time to take back their country, it’s now. The scum suckers are busy with us and frankly if the Georgians, the majority of Georgians, really wanted to take back their country now is the time. Yes there will be death as there is in Ukraine but if you want freedom, FIGHT FOR IT like we are. The Orange and Maiden weren’t flukes, they were the expression of the Ukrainian populace that they aren’t taking anymore shit and our brethren died for that

          Once again I apologize if I have offended you, I don’t mean too. But I can’t have much sympathy when my brethren are dying for their freedom and others just wish for it. Sorry for being a hard ass.

          • I fully agree. Now is the time to fight for freedom. But, it’s not only Georgia that can’t seem to gather enough courage to do so. Sometimes I think all the bravery in the world has moved into Ukraine, leaving everyone else sniffling chickens.

            • Please read my detailed reply to Cap.
              Thousands of Georgians have travelled to Ukraine since 2014 to fight and die for Ukraine. They were and remain by far the biggest contingent of Ukraine’s foreign volunteers.
              Accusing such people of cowardice is just plain wrong and would make any Georgian’s blood boil.

              • I most certainly will never call those Georgians who are fighting in Ukraine cowards. But, how many are there in Ukraine and how many are in Georgia?
                I know it’s easier said than done – to shake off a shitty government or another shit-eating entity in your country, like the cockroaches, but what in the hell are the Georgians (and others) waiting for?
                When this war started, and saw that this war is not going to end soon with a defeat for us, I started wondering why other people aren’t rising up. We have almost 18 months of war and NOBODY has done so, despite the massive losses by mafia land.
                I admit that I am baffled by this. I guess, I’m talking from a position of ignorance.

              • Honestly I’m not calling anyone a coward. But if their priority is not freedom and freedom that they feel is so important that they are prepared to die for, then why should I care. They can live their lives anyway they wish. It’s their call. If they don’t feel it’s that important, neither will I

                Once again Scradgel I don’t mean to offend you or anyone else. I just feel strongly that our brethren are dying for a cause they feel is critical to their lives. I do apologize sincerely if I have offended you.

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