Divide and Conquer In Georgia

How Russia Is Turning the Country Against Itself

People hold banners during opposition rally to protest against Russia's policy towards Georgia and Ukraine in Tbilisi, November 15, 2014.  David Mdzinarishvili / Reuters

Georgia, never particularly politically stable, has once more been thrown into turmoil. Coup allegations, media restrictions, and a surge of bitter partisan infighting—all under the shadow of a persistent Russian threat—have created a sense of foreboding. The conventional wisdom blames the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition for creating a political crisis to destroy the opposition United National Movement. That view seems to be affirmed by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s recent statement that the UNM has “no right to remain in politics," and by the state’s ongoing dismantling of the pro-UNM Rustavi 2 television station. But GD’s machinations are only a narrow subset of a much broader problem afflicting Georgia ahead of parliamentary elections in 2016. And here, a massive increase in Russian influence operations is key.

The GD, which came to power in 2012 in a shock landslide victory over an increasingly authoritarian incumbent, UNM, is weakening. A

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