Senator Ben Cardin, the leader (ranking member) of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee members from the Democratic Party, released a minority staff report on January 10, documenting Russia’s aggressive activities abroad and calling on President Donald Trump’s administration to counter these threats.
The 206-page staff report, titled “Putin’s Asymmetrical Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security,” includes numerous references to Georgia, with its executive summary stating that Moscow aggressively targeted Georgia and Ukraine after they moved closer to the European Union and NATO, attacking them “with cyber warfare, disinformation campaigns, and military force.”
The document also states that the goal of Russia’s interference in Georgia and Ukraine appears to be to weaken these countries to the point that they become failed states, rendering them “incapable of joining Western institutions in the future and presenting the Russian people with another example of the ‘‘consequences’’ of democratization.”
The Senate Democrats speak of the August 2008 Russian invasion as well, particularly highlighting the combination of conventional military operations with a cyber-attack that Russia used against Georgia during the war, and stating that it was “the first instance in which cyberattacks occurred alongside a military strike.”
The staff report also highlights Russia’s political influence and propaganda activities in Georgia. “Beyond its military assaults on Georgian territory, the Russian government also supports a variety of pro-Kremlin political parties, NGOs, and propaganda efforts in the country,” it notes.
One of the examples, according to the document, is Obiektivi TV, a media outlet, which “reportedly relied on Russian funding in its support of the ultra-nationalistic Alliance of Patriots political party.” “Obiektivi’s xenophobic, homophobic, and anti-western narrative helped the Alliance of Patriots clear the threshold to enter parliament during the October 2016 election,” reads the report.
The document says “the Russian propaganda in Georgia borders on the bizarre,” bringing up as an example the claims that the United States uses the “Richard Lugar Public Health Research Center” in Tbilisi “to carry out biological tests on the Georgian population.”
The Senate Democrats consider that while it is “difficult to measure” the impact of Russia’s disinformation and other non-military activities on Georgia, “the Russian government is able to exert considerable influence in Georgia using these different avenues.”