Is Georgia on the verge of a Kremlin-inspired political takeover? No. But neither is growing Russian influence a fantasy, as a December post by Dustin Gilbreath in The Monkey Cage appears to suggest.
Gilbreath makes some good points about political tendencies in Georgia. Georgians’ views of Russia are indeed complicated. But pro-Eurasian Union sentiment is growing, and there’s a significant chance that Russian influence is growing as well.
Polling data taken regularly over the last several years shows a clear and steady increase in Georgian support for the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). That roughly tracks with increasing political support for anti-West and pro-Russia political factions within Georgia.
Why should the West care?
Getting a feel for Georgia’s geopolitical trajectory is too important to get wrong. Georgia is arguably the stablest and most democratic of the post-Soviet republics outside of the Baltics, and plausibly the last hope in a region that has seen years of political stagnation and regression. The United States and Europe have poured billions into promoting democracy and economic development there, and Tbilisi has consistently responded with an enthusiastic embrace of Westernization.
The government in Tbilisi is doing just about everything right. But expansion fatigue in the United States and especially Europe is breeding fatalism in Georgia, and incubating a political environment where pro-Russia factions’ anti-west crusades are gaining traction.
If Georgia turned away from the West, it would not only be a blow to the country’s nascent democracy, but it would also sew…