Georgia Features at U.S. Senate Committee

Russian propaganda in Georgia and its implications was one of the discussion points at the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on March 29.

The hearing, titled as the Civil Society Perspectives on Russia, was held at the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs under the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The hearing featured testimonies of Vladimir Kara-Murza, Vice Chairman of the Open Russia initiative, Laura Jewett, Regional Director for Eurasia Programs at the National Democratic Institute, and Jan Erik Surotchak, Regional Director for Europe at the International Republican Institute.

In his opening speech, Senator Lindsay Graham (Rep.), who presided over the hearing, expressed concerns on recent developments in Russia pointing at human rights violations, government control over the media and the corruption in the country.

“Putin’s regime knows no boundaries, they will kill, they will steal, they will do whatever is necessary to stay in power,” Graham noted referring to the crackdown of peaceful demonstrations held in up to one hundred cities across Russia on March 26.

Laura Jewett, who was one of the witnesses at the hearing, emphasized on the “urgent” threats posed by the Russian Federation’s hybrid warfare in the Eurasian countries, saying that “it is potentially more powerful than warships and missiles because, if successful, the aggressor can deprive another country of its sovereignty without seizing their territory.”

In her remarks, Jewett also touched upon the Russian propaganda in Georgia.

“Georgia’s foreign policy is western-oriented and most Georgians aspire to a democratic and European future which explains why Russia invaded Georgia and continues to occupy 20% of its territory, to frustrate these goals,” Jewett stated.

“Yet the influence of Russian propaganda is palpable. One narrative holds that embracing Europe will force Georgians to violate their traditional values. Another is that if Georgia does straight too far toward the Europe it will face further military consequences from Moscow. These messages have taken root and they distort politics,” she said.

“To Georgia’s credit, though, it is home to vibrant civil society groups pushing back against this interference,” she added.

Jewett also presented written testimonies from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association and the Transparency International Georgia at the committee hearing.