NewsU.S. Threatens Sanctions as Georgia's New Law Echoes Kremlin Control

U.S. Threatens Sanctions as Georgia's New Law Echoes Kremlin Control

Images source: © East News | GIORGI ARJEVANIDZE

5:18 PM EDT, May 15, 2024

The United States warned Georgia against aligning with Moscow, as Assistant Secretary of State for the U.S., Jim O'Brien, announced possible sanctions against Georgian officials due to their adoption of a contentious "foreign agents" law. The White House criticized the law for mirroring the Kremlin's approach.

During a press conference in Tbilisi, after meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and other officials, O'Brien expressed concerns over the law, suggesting it marked a critical juncture in Georgia's post-Soviet history. He warned that if the law led to the suppression of peaceful protests, the U.S. would impose sanctions and visa restrictions on those undermining democracy.

Washington's firm stance against Georgian politicians

O'Brien vehemently criticized the narrative promoted by Georgian leaders, including oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili and Prime Minister Garibashvili, who have portrayed the U.S. as an adversary. He likened their rhetoric to a conspiracy theory and warned of the potential cessation of nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Georgia. He also highlighted the law's potential to drastically alter Georgia's relationship with the West.

The law on "foreign agents" sparked a wave of protests

Despite significant public dissent in Tbilisi, the Georgian parliament approved the law, which mandates that organizations receiving over 20% of their funding abroad must register as foreign influence agents. Critics argue that this law could be exploited to stifle opposition and independent media, contradicting Georgia's EU aspirations. However, the ruling party, Georgian Dream, insists the law will enhance transparency and sovereignty.

Official reactions in the U.S. were notably sharp, with White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre and State Department spokesman Vedant Patel condemning the law. They stressed the need for Georgia to align the legislation with democratic principles, maintaining hope for a softened version despite its passing.
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