State Security Service Reports on Internal, External Threats to Georgia
The State Security Service, Georgia’s domestic intelligence agency, has issued its annual report for 2019, outlining internal and external threats facing the country’s national security and its priorities.
Among the key challenges, the report singled out Russian occupation and the situation at the dividing lines with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, hybrid warfare carried out by other states in Georgia, fomenting of anti-Western sentiments among the population, dissemination of propaganda and disinformation, and terrorism.
In addition, along with the development of new technologies, the document stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation with strategic allies in order to beef up cyber defense and counterintelligence capacities.
Occupied Territories – Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region
As maintained by the Security Service, Russian occupation and illegal presence of its military forces in the occupied regions still pose “an existential threat” to Georgia.
Activities of Russian military personnel and intelligence agencies in the occupied regions pose a threat not only to the security of Georgia and the region, but also to Europe,” the report reads.
The Security Service drew attention to “the policy of substitution of Russian occupation by annexation processes,” increasing militarization, intensive military drills, discrimination of ethnic Georgians, restriction of “fundamental right” to free movement and the process of deliberate isolation of the occupied regions as the “main challenges” to the country.
The occupied regions’ heavy financial dependence on the Russian Federation’s budget should be discussed in the context of Russia’s policy of annexation,” reads the report.
The document highlighted “evident dynamism” of the the so called illegal borderization along the occupation line, noting that “the occupying forces have coordinated this process with the de facto agencies.”
In 2019, Russian occupying forces have taken extremely alarming and dangerous steps that has seriously harmed security environment and created additional problems to local population living on the both sides of the occupation line,” the State Security Service said in the report.
The document also focused on illegal detentions of Georgian citizens Irakli Kvaratskhelia and doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili on charges of “illegal crossing of the border.” The Security Service lays full responsibility for the death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia, who died under vague circumstances in Abkhazia, on the occupying regime, implying that his death “was the result of illegal detention.”
State Security and Counterintelligence
The State Security Service said that, over the course of 2019, it has worked hard to uphold the constitutional order in the country, and to protect its “sovereignty and territorial integrity, military-economic potential, state secrets and critical infrastructure,” as well as to fight against the crimes posing a danger to the national security.
The Security Service noted that, during the reporting period, foreign intelligence services sought to gain political, economic, social and other levers to exert influence on Georgia. In this context, the report names Russia’s “covert and cyber operations,” as well as “media manipulations.”
The report identified hybrid warfare as an important challenge to the country and outlines five main tools, among them – “occupying forces and de facto regimes, information warfare, soft power, economic levers and covert operations.”
According to the document, disinformation and propaganda campaign were used to target democratic values, by discrediting NATO and the West, and sowing discord among the population.
The Security Service spotlighted a smear campaign launched against the Lugar Lab in early 2019 as a textbook case of disinformation.
Large scale information attacks against the research center, as well as propaganda campaign carried out to discredit vaccination and other national healthcare programs pose a direct threat to the Georgian population’s health and security,” reads the report.
The document also noted that as a part of hybrid warfare, various political and civic groups tried to downplay the threats coming from Russia, as well as the issue of occupied territories by seeking to to destabilize relations with Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In this context, the State Security Service cast light on the developments around David Gareji Monastery Complex, noting that “a destructive campaign jeopardized the situation on the Georgian-Azerbaijani state border, and put at risk the strategic partnership between the two countries.”
According to the report, the June 20-21 events have had detrimental effects on the security situation in the country.
The document noted that “aggression, violence, disobedience to police officers, uncontrolled actions” create serious challenges for the statehood, constitutional order and governance.
The State Security Service said that the massive cyberattack of 2019 against the websites of Georgian government and private agencies were aimed at infringing upon Georgia’s national security, causing harm to the population and inciting turmoil through hampering the operation of government agencies and other organizations.
According to the report, amid the growth of far right groups in the world, in 2019 the State Security Service “has been actively involved in identifying the threats stemming from international terrorism, revealing new challenges and improving the ways to prevent terrorism.”
The document also focused on active cooperation with international partners to exchange information and respond to terrorism threats.
The Security Service emphasized that Georgia’s steps to combat terrorism and extremism were commended in the annual report of the U.S. Department of State and in EU’s report on implementation of the Association Agreement.
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