Frontera, Its Supporters Accuse Tbilisi of Opposing Company Because It’s American

After the Georgian government won a case in international arbitration against a scofflaw American oil company, the company’s supporters in Congress have accused the ruling party in Tbilisi of doing Russia’s bidding, Eurasianet reports

Four members of Congress, including Senator Ted Cruz, wrote a letter on May 15 asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to investigate “Georgian ties to American hostile rivals and enemies, which are coming at the expense of our geostrategic and business interests.” In particular, it accused the government of laxity in promoting US sanctions against Iran and the chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, of having ties to the Russian government.

"The Russian puppet conspiracy theories have gotten new life in Washington following Tbilisi’s decision to take legal action against Frontera Resources, a Texas energy company that has been working in Georgia since the 1990s.

"In December, it emerged that the Georgian government was pursuing international arbitration against Frontera for failing to fulfill its contract obligations. In April, the government said that the arbitrators had ruled in its favor (though Frontera disputed this interpretation) and terminated the contract. The company, meanwhile, had not been paying workers for months," reads the article by Joshua Kucera published on May 18.

The publication further notes that Frontera and its supporters in Congress responded by accusing Tbilisi of opposing the company because it is American.

In January, Pete Olson, a Texas Republican in the House of Representatives, called Ivanishvili a “Russian puppet” and compared him to the Sesame Street character Oscar the Grouch because they are “both puppets who trash their own home.” Olson had received generous campaign contributions from Frontera, prompting the news site Texas Monthly to compare Olson to another Sesame Street character, Big Bird: “They both know who feathers their nest.”

Three of the four signatories of the new letter also have taken campaign contributions from Frontera.

The author of the article stresses that the letter makes the most expansive geopolitical accusations to date against the Georgian Dream, and is given some extra weight by the presence of Cruz – a leading candidate for president in 2016 – and the attempt to get Pompeo and Mnuchin involved.
"The lawmakers also make thin insinuations about Iranian activity in Georgia, presumably an attempt to catch the interest of Pompeo, who is even more hawkish on Iran than he is on Russia," reads the article. 

The most serious allegations involve Russia, though, and the writers ask the administration to provide a briefing to Congress on the degree to which “the Georgian Dream party is implicated in efforts to crowd out legitimate American businesses,” the “reported ties between Bidzina Ivanishvili, chairman of the Georgian Dream party, and the Russian government,” and the “deliberate exclusion of American companies from port construction aimed at insulating Georgia from reliance on Russia.”

"It's not clear how likely Pompeo and Mnuchin are to act on the request. For one, the accusations don’t have much merit; secondly, the US government has striven to position itself as an honest broker in Georgia’s heavily divided internal politics and pursuing this line of inquiry would scuttle that effort. It’s unlikely to try to do that for a minor (by US standards) energy company," the author concludes. 

Author: Joshua Kucera


Read the full article here

Related Story: US Congressmen Urge Pompeo to Respond to Concerns about Governance Issues in Georgia

19 May 2020 10:56