13 June 2024,   23:39
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US to consider major military, trade package to Georgia if anti-democratic drift reversed - POLITICO

Washington could sign off on a sweeping package of economic and security support for Georgia if its government abandons its increasingly anti-Western rhetoric and stops backsliding on human rights, writes POLITICO.

“Under the terms of a draft bill to be introduced in Congress this week by South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson and seen by POLITICO, the U.S. would start talks with the South Caucasus country to open “a robust preferential trade regime”, provided key political criteria were met.

Along with improved access to American markets, the bill calls for liberalization of the visa regime for Georgian citizens.

It would also mandate officials to develop a military support package for Georgia including the “provision of security and defense equipment ideally suited for territorial defense against Russian aggression and concomitant training, maintenance, and operations support elements.”

However, the program would only be activated if the U.S. confirms that “Georgia has shown significant and sustained progress towards reinvigorating its democracy, evidenced at minimum by substantially fair and free elections and a balanced pre-election environment.”

As previously reported by POLITICO, Wilson’s bill would introduce individual sanctions on politicians from the ruling Georgian Dream party as well as other government officials if they implement their proposed Russian-style “foreign agent” bill. The legislation, which is waiting for a final vote in parliament next week before being passed into law, would brand Western-funded NGOs, media outlets and campaign groups as foreign agents, which critics say would be used to silence and delegitimize criticism of the government.

Wilson serves as chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent U.S. government agency that monitors freedom and democracy across the continent. His “MEGOBARI Act” bill (Mobilizing and Enhancing Georgia’s Options for Building Accountability, Resilience, and Independence Act) mirrors warnings from other leaders in Washington.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien has warned that if Georgia passes the foreign agent bill “we will see restrictions coming from the United States” that affect the finances and travel of those behind it. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, meanwhile, said if the foreign agent legislation is implemented, that would “compel us to fundamentally reassess our relationship with Georgia.”

Tens of thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the plans, which the EU has said would effectively end the country’s hopes of joining the bloc — just six months after it was granted candidate status. Riot police have used water cannon, tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators, and swooped in violently to detain activists.

Georgia borders on Russia; since a 2008 war between the two, Moscow and its local partners have occupied around 20 percent of the country’s territory”, - writes the author of the article.

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