Foreign policy and domestic constraints: what political regimes can and cannot do in Georgia
Not enough Soft power
Arguably the most important instrument of Russian soft power is the shared religion of Orthodox Christianity. The Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) – the most respected institution in the country – formally supports Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy but also retains close ties to Russia. Furthermore, the prevailing social conservative values in Georgian society are at odds with Western progressive norms. This factor also makes Russia attractive to some Georgians. Georgian Eurosceptic parties (some of which are considered to be GD satellites) and social groups have capitalized on this cultural cleavage. With the GD government’s tacit approval, anti-European groups have successfully organized large rallies against sexual minorities and immigrants. However, when it comes to political rapprochement with Russia, neither shared religion nor hostility to progressive values can trump the negative perception of Russia’s coercive policies in Georgia. It’s worth noting that that Sergei Gavrilov, the Russian MP whose presence in Parliament sparked the outrage, was in fact the president of the General Assembly of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. This demonstrates the limits of shared religious identity. Against the danger of Moscow’s increasing influence, different groups within Georgian society have managed to close ranks and speak with a single voice. It is strong message against radical clergy at GOC which was not expected current outcome of the events.