The Deterioration Of Relations Between Ukraine And Georgia Continues

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has imposed sanctions on relatives of the Georgian ruling political party’s founder and former leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, according to a decree issued on 19th October. The approval of the decision of the National Security and Defence Council introduces a list of 256 individuals, who have been subjected to special economic and operational measures. Having a purportedly close relationship with the Russian Federation resulted in the blocking of assets, restrictions of trade operations, or withdrawal of the capital possessed by business people, politicians, and family members.

“We are talking about specific family members. This is an attempt to blackmail Georgia in order to involve it in the war to open a second front here” says the Chairman of the Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze. Conversely, leaders of the opposition encourage the Ukrainian government to extend the scope of sanctions to Bidzina Ivanishvili himself. “The Ivanishvili family is involved in the process of circumventing sanctions imposed by the West. Ivanishvili is nothing more, nothing less, than an ally of Putin and an enemy of the democratic world” commented the chairman of the National Movement party, Nika Melia.

The widening gulf between Ukraine and Georgia has been gradually expanding. The Georgian Dream party has normalised this ambiguous political discourse in the country. On the one hand, the Georgian government has been declaring its support and solidarity with Ukraine, while,  on the other hand, the government decided not to impose sanctions on Russia and is prosecuting opposition leaders, who simultaneously hold Ukrainian citizenship. The list of the accused who were convicted, usually in absentia, includes former president Mikheil Saakashvili and former justice minister Nika Gvarmia. According to Amnesty International, Nika Gvarmia has become a victim of a national persecution campaign against dissidents.

The high-level vilification of Ivanishvili is entrenched in the omnipresent contestation of actions undertaken by the Georgian Dream’s political party and his interests. The lack of freedom, increasing repressive policies, and Tbilisi’s refusal to back Western sanctions on Russia have aroused the European Union’s suspicion and ire. Consequently, diplomatic tensions and international pressure continue to mount. Georgia is no longer next in line to be admitted into the European Union, having been overtaken by Moldavia and Ukraine. Amidst the reasons, the European Commission recited the ‘personal and business links of Ivanishvili to the Kremlin, underlining his contribution to the incessant decline of democratic standards in Tbilisi.

Georgia’s separatist republics in South Ossetia and Abkhazia add further complexity to an already delicate situation. Moscow’s act of aggression in 2008 culminated in the de facto occupation of these territories by the Russian army. It is rather surprising that Georgian Dream politicians are unwilling to impose sanctions on Putin’s regime, given the fact that President Dmitry Medvedev’s unlawful recognition of breakaway republics has engendered immense economic harm and polarization in Georgia.

Georgia’s ambiguous stance vi-a-vis the Russo-Ukrainian War is arousing confusion and frustration on the international stage. Tbilisi once yearned for EU membership, but it is not slowly drifting away from European integration. Despite the immense support for “Westernisation” among the inhabitants in the Caucasus, Ukraine’s decision to punish Bidzina Ivanishvili not only drives a wedge between Tbilisi and Kyiv, but it imperils Georgia’s EU candidacy.

The nadir in bilateral relations requires instant solutions. Addressing the dissent, Ukraine and Georgia shall prioritise the commencement of an intensive dialogue. In order to facilitate the progress of the negotiations, a third party, for instance, the EU representative, could be invited to overcome the prevailing stalemate.