At the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation’s hearing “Bolstering Democracy in Georgia,” which took place on March 23, Senator Jeanne Shaheen asked Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent about his opinion regarding “how true it is that Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the ruling party Georgian Dream, receives orders from Russia.”
“When we were in Georgia in 2012, Ivanishvili, who was considered the father of the Georgian Dream and funded the party, was criticized for being too close to Russia and taking orders from Russia. He denied it and, as far as I know, continues to deny it, so does the Georgian Dream. However, to what extent do we think this [criticism] is true, and to what extent are we concerned that the Georgian Dream may not feel free to make its own decision to overcome the current political crisis and disagreement with the opposition because it benefits Russia?” Jeanne Shaheen asked.
In response, George Kent noted that he believes the party remains committed to the country’s integration into Western institutions.
“I think it can be boldly assessed that the Georgian Dream government, which began with Bidzina Ivanishvili as prime minister and then as party chairman, followed by his formal resignation, has remained committed to integration into Western institutions. The Georgian Dream government has announced that it will apply for EU membership in 2024. They still want to join NATO. Therefore, I think it is clear – this is not only the choice of at least 3/4 of Georgians, but it is also the constant path of the Georgian Dream government, headed by Bidzina Ivanishvili, formally as the party chairman or informally as the party founder.
“I think when we listen to Georgians, including the current Prime Minister of Georgia, who was formerly the Minister of Defense and with whom we worked closely, this commitment to the Georgian path and their strategic goal is clear. I think this hearing is about how committed Georgia is to the values that will lead the country on this path. NATO is not just a military alliance. It is a community of countries that share values. In my opinion, this is the final test [for Georgia] and the reason why you have appointed a hearing on such an important topic for the future of Georgia.”
The hearing on Georgia was chaired by Senator Shaheen.
She noted that she is surprised and disappointed that political actors in Georgia allow the crisis to continue for so long. Shaheen called on all parties involved in the political process in Georgia to “put aside short term political interests and to instead look to the strengthening and perseverance of Georgian democracy.”