U.S. Senators’ Letter to PM Kobakhidze Warning of Possible U.S. Policy Shift over Agents’ Law

In the strongest U.S. response yet to developments surrounding the Georgian Dream’s reintroduction of the Foreign Agents law in the Parliament, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chair of the Europe and Regional Security Cooperation Subcommittee, joined by 12 of their colleagues wrote a bi-partisan letter to the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze on April 26 expressing “profound concern” about the decision to re-table the law and warning him that if the legislation is passed the Senators “will be compelled to encourage a shift in U.S. policy toward Georgia.”

The undersigned senators say that the shift could entail “sanctions on those responsible for undermining Georgia’s democratic development or inhibiting its Euro-Atlantic trajectory, reconsideration of direct U.S. financial assistance and the expansion of visa bans to the United States.”

Noting that the law targets civil society, “the lifeblood of Georgian democracy” and “appears directed at assistance from the United States and Europe, which have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to support Georgia’s sovereignty and democratic transition”, the senators stress that it also contradicts the wishes of the Georgian people, whose huge majority consistently support the EU membership.

The undersigned Senators stress that the adoption of the legislation “could send a powerful message to the Georgian people that its government no longer reflects their wishes, is actively undermining its EU membership agenda, and refuses to uphold its constitution.” As a result, the Senators warn “this legislation would cast Georgia’s strongest partners, the United States and European Union, as malign actors.” They further state that “Such a shift would require U.S. policy toward Georgia to change and reflect the new state of Georgia’s politics.”

The Senators pledge to “never abandon the aspirations of the Georgian people who have made their voices heard, loud and clear, in support of a democratic and European future” while also noting that “the relationship between the U.S. and Georgia is based on mutual interests and shared values.” Noting that “the United States stands eager and ready to develop deeper ties that further support  Georgia’s economic development and Western integration,” the letter concludes that “this cannot continue until this legislation is withdrawn.”

Joining Risch and Shaheen are U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M).

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