Georgia on Europe’s Mind

The era in which Europe could rely on America to wage war, make peace, and establish democracy in its own backyard is over. With European Union enlargement, and as the recent Russian gas crisis demonstrated, that backyard now includes not just Ukraine, but Georgia as well. Indeed, as in Ukraine, Georgia is undergoing a test of democracy that Europe cannot afford to ignore.

Georgia was the first post-Soviet country to stage a “color revolution,” and thus to demonstrate, with dignity and maturity, its people’s choice for democracy and European values. The European Union flags that have flown on all Georgian public buildings since then signal a natural attachment, as old as the history of a country that, for the ancient Greeks, was an integral part of the world as it was then known. Prometheus, Medea, the Amazons and, in neighboring Armenia, Noah’s Ark – the Europe of our myths starts here.

With its history, culture, and traditions – including its critical, independent, and even rebellious spirit within the former Soviet Union – Georgia would seem to be an ideal candidate for successful democratization. So it is all the more worrisome that democratization there is foundering.

Everything seemed to have started well enough. Political reforms, privatization, anti-corruption measures, a search for new leaders untainted by compromise with the former regime, and implementation of a pro-European foreign policy met no resistance. But the totalitarian mindset has since resurfaced in leaders who, with their claim to represent the will of the majority, appropriate more and more power.