Author: Giorgi Pachuashvili



On April 3, Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of Georgia’s ruling party parliamentary majority, announced the reintroduction of the bill on foreign agents, officially named the law on Transparency of Foreign Influence, and reasonably referred to as the “Russian Law” by its critics. Its similarity to the law adopted in Russia in 2012 became a cause of concern and spurred massive protests in the Georgian capital. The law stands in stark violation of Article 78 of the Georgian Constitution, which states that the constitutional bodies must take any mandated measures to ensure Georgia’s membership in the EU and NATO. President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has already expressed her support for the protesters in Georgia, while NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that he “opposes” any attempt to reintroduce the law. US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller underlined that the law “would jeopardize Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic path and undermine the U.S.-Georgia relationship”. Nevertheless, the bill was adopted on 14 May at the 3rd hearing of the plenary session of the Georgian Parliament, amid significant political tension inside the building that resulted in a brawl. Let’s explore why the law is so crucial for the ruling party, and what its geopolitical implications are.

The Russian Law as the Kremlin’s Foreign Policy Tool

It can suggested that the rationale behind the “Russian Law” is the Georgian government’s desire to silence its main critics, i.e. civil society and the media, and impose an authoritarian governance that will enable the Georgian Dream to rule as it sees fit. Yet, this only addresses part of the overall picture, as the law also serves as a foreign policy tool for the Kremlin to impose its influence on whoever is adopting it. Slovakia’s pro-Russian government, under Robert Fico, almost simultaneously introduced a similar bill, while years earlier, the EU Court of Justice prevented Hungary from adopting an eerily analogous “law on foreign-supported organizations,” and Kyrgyzstan’s pro-Russian president has just signed in the country’s own ‘foreign agents’ law. For the EU member states, the ‘Russian Law’ would serve to destabilize the EU from within, and would likely grow Moscow’s influence. For Kyrgyzstan, it can be regarded as an assertion of control by the Kremlin in Central Asia. But what is the rationale for the South Caucasus?

Political Tensions in the South Caucasus

There are ongoing protests in Armenia today that risk sabotaging Yerevan’s Western push and its peace talks with Azerbaijan. The protesters are demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation amid the controversial decision of the Armenian government to cede four villages in the Tavush region that were previously under Azerbaijani control to Baku. The move has been praised by the US and the EU, but criticized by Armenia’s opposition.

Since Armenia stated its desire to apply for EU membership just last month, the protests in Georgia should not be seen as a separate occurrence. After all, Yerevan is closely looking to its neighbor for guidance. Georgia is already an EU candidate state, and this could either cause a spill-over effect for Armenia in terms of its own future membership, or be utilized in the regional context to jointly push for Brussels. If Georgia is to fail in its Western endeavors, Yerevan would have no regional leverage left, and could immediately succumb to the Russian influence that it wishes to escape.

What remains to be answered is if the “Russian Law” is part of an elaborate plot by the Kremlin to dominate the South Caucasus by imposing and strengthening its grip on Georgia in a similar manner to Belarus, and by using the factor of opposition in Armenia to prevent its Western path. Georgia’s case offers strong evidence to support this argument. The government is implementing an almost identical law as that which is part of the Russian concept of curtailing the influence of media and CSOs – both of which can be viewed as unofficial pillars of government in terms of the distribution of power in democracies. Moreover, the recent episodes of violence against activists and leaders of the opposition in Georgia, as well as cases of police brutality, have evoked reminiscence of Belarus in people’s minds.

‘Russkiy Mir’

Russkiy Mir (Russian World) comes as a crucial concept here. It was announced by Putin in 2012, the same year as the law on foreign agents was introduced, and serves as a mythos of an almighty Russian civilization that unites the Russian speaking world, and which must be protected. Here the Kremlin envisions its former imperial possessions as part of the wider “Russian World.” This narrative was utilized to justify its aggression against Ukraine, and is supported by Moscow to reinforce its ideas globally. This is the reason a plethora of parallels can be observed between pro-Russian governments and their methods, as it is essentially part of the Kremlin’s worldview and modus operandi.

The principle of sovereignty is crucial for the Kremlin’s goal to discredit Western influence, including that of NGOs and critical media, who undermine this effort. Paradoxically, the same concept is instrumentalized to impose authoritarian rule, which limits the very sovereignty of any country that choses to join the Russkiy Mir in the illusion of defying the West’s imagined intrusion into the affairs of sovereign nations. Unsurprisingly, the informal leader of both the ruling party and the government in Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, spoke about a “free, independent, sovereign Georgia” as the main aim of his party. Sovereignty has become a buzzword for the Georgian government’s propaganda.

Another crucial point is the EU membership. Russia frequently interferes in other nations’ affairs to discredit this effort. The suspension of Belarus from the Eastern Partnership (EaP) came as a result of Russia’s involvement in human rights abuses and support for Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. Moscow then tried to prevent Ukraine from joining the EU through its influence on President Yanukovych. When this failed, Russia opted to invade Ukraine and hold its territories for ransom, so as to sabotage Kyiv’s pro-Western efforts. And Armenia’s EaP membership went nowhere due to apparent Russian influence on the country. Only Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia advanced further, and all of them managed to receive EU candidate status. Yet Tbilisi was derailed due to the government’s increasing ties with Moscow and its authoritarian tendencies. Georgia was only granted candidate status after the Georgian people showed that they were willing to fight for it, and after they pressured the government to drop the “Russian Law.” Yet, while Moldova and Ukraine have already opened negotiations for membership, the reintroduced Russian Law is threatening Georgia’s prospects of joining the EU at all, and directly benefits Russia’s regional agenda for dominating the South Caucasus.


The “Russian Law” should not be labeled merely as a phenomenon of domestic politics, but instead viewed as a foreign policy tool that is part of Moscow’s agenda towards the regions it views as part of the “Russian World.” In Central and Eastern Europe, the bills on “foreign agent” serve the purpose of destabilizing the integrity of the European Union, while in Central Asia, it solidifies Russia’s regional grip. Since Georgia serves as an example of a European-style democracy in the South Caucasus, its subjugation to a Russian-style authoritarianism through leveraging the bill on Transparency of Foreign Influence will have regional ramifications in the Kremlin’s favor. That is why Armenia’s fate is tied to Georgia and the wider regional politics of the South Caucasus.