The State Security Service, Georgia’s domestic intelligence service, issued its annual report for 2018, outlining threats facing the country’s national security and some of its counter-measures.
The document was submitted to the Parliament last month, but will be presented before the lawmakers at a plenary sitting mid-may by Vakhtang Gomelauri, head of the State Security Service.
The report lists several threats to Georgia’s security, including those stemming from the occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhnivali, international terrorism and foreign covert activities.
Russian occupation and the presence of its military forces in the occupied regions is the “primary threat” to Georgia, according to the report.
“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.
Like last year, the SSG identifies “increasing” militarization, discrimination of ethnic Georgians, restrictions on their mobility and Russia’s “informal annexation” as the “main challenge” regarding Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
The report also says political and socio-economic processes in the two regions “were entirely controlled by the occupation force.”
“To control processes in occupied Abkhazia, the occupation force is actively using artificially-created “political-economic” instability and pushes the de facto regime to decisions that are favorable to Russia, while in Tskhinvali Region, the incumbent de facto regime is openly supportive of unifying with the Russian federation,” it reads.
The SSG also reported that in 2018, Russia was using the two territories, as well as the borderization process along the occupation line “to form public opinion on certain issues in Georgia, and influence the ongoing, including political processes in the country.”
The State Security Service says the main challenge in the reporting period in terms of terrorism was the Islamic State and affiliated groups. The SSG, however, notes that the number of Islamic State-sympathizers in Georgia, as well as their influence, has “further decreased” in 2018.
“Local supporters of this terrorist organization lack ability to act in an organized manner and do not have a so called leader. Youngsters previously vulnerable to the ideas of the Islamic State are no longer interested in its ideology. Restrictions on mobility and fundraising ability of members of the terrorist organization has created significant financial problems to supporters of IS ideology,” it noted.
The SSG also says “at this moment,” persons adhering to extremist ideology living in Georgia may not be interested in going against the state, but “it is not excluded that they may use their connections and financial capacities in the interest of various extremist and/or terrorist groups and organizations.”
The report estimates the number of Georgians fighting for various terrorist groups in 2018 at 20 persons, a decline compared to the 2018 figure of 30. No new recruits have departed for Syria and Iraq, according to the document.
The SSG also reports on its activities against use of the Georgian territory for transit. It says such facts have “significantly declined,” but “certain challenges still remain.”
The State Security Service said that in 2018, it worked actively to identify and prevent the actions carried out by organizations, separate persons and groups of persons affiliated with foreign intelligence services against the interests of Georgia.
According to the Service, based on the information obtained through its counterintelligence activities, key challenges facing the country’s security were identified, including the attempts to infringe upon Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, changing its foreign course, destabilization, unrests and polarization of the society, as well as a threat of economic expansion.
According to the report, the countries interested in strengthening their influences in Georgia were actively using “hybrid warfare” methods for achieving their goals, actively using disinformation campaign carried out through fake news, distorted facts and falsification of history as their main tool.
The report also reads that this campaign aimed at causing confrontation on ethnic and religious grounds, stirring anti-Western sentiments in the population and damaging Georgia’s reputation in the eyes of its strategic partners, as well as obtaining the levers of economic influence.
According to the report, foreign intelligence services were using political and public groups affiliated with foreign countries in order to reduce trust between the civil society, government and political groups.
The security service also noted that during the reporting period foreign countries tried to use economic levels existing in Georgia for their own geopolitical purposes. “Foreign commercial organizations were trying to use economic levers at their disposal for manipulating the socio-economic situation in the country,” reads the report.