The wave of criticism of US Ambassador Kelly Degnan’s activities has recently swept Georgia and gained critical momentum, along with the criticism of US policy in the country in general.
In an interview to the Public TV – First Channel, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition Irakli Kobakhidze called “incomprehensible and offensive” the statement of Ambassador Kelly Degnan, who was openly biased in her assessment of changes in Georgian legislation expanding the powers of law enforcement agencies to wiretap suspected criminals, calling it a “blow to democracy.” He also emphasized the “insulting” tone of the US Ambassador’s comments on the four People’s Power MPs criticizing her, as she had baselessly accused them of allegedly spreading “pro-Russian misinformation.” At the same time, he reminded the demagogic defender of “American-style democracy” Degnan that “MPs are elected by the people, they have special merit in the past.”
Georgian MPs Sozar Subari, Dimitri Khundadze, Mikhail Kavelashvili and Guram Macharashvili, who left the ruling Georgian Dream Party on September 8 to be able to speak truth about the unfolding situation in the country, made further accusations against the US and US Ambassador Kelly Degnan. The letter of these parliamentarians published on the website of the Parliament indicates that Washington started to establish its network of agents in Georgia in late 1990s, then organized the “Rose Revolution” and achieved the formation of the vertical of power “under full control of the US Embassy in 2004-2012.” For example, the letter states that the US Embassy is actively working to change the government in Georgia with the help of its agents – opposition leaders and leaders of influential local NGOs. The US Ambassador Kelly Degnan was blamed for coordinating the revolutionary scenario in Georgia.
As is well known from many Georgian and Western media publications, during the military actions in Ukraine, the West, having failed to achieve a coup in Tbilisi, began to intensively demand from the Georgian authorities to “open a second front” against Russia, but received a harsh rebuke from responsible Georgian politicians, who remember well how the adventure started by Saakashvili and the Americans behind him ended for their country. This is why Georgia is now taking a cautious stance and conducting a balanced policy towards Russia, understanding that the real processes in the region can be born and coordinated not only from the US, but also from the capitals of major regional powers – first and foremost Russia, but also Turkey and Iran. This was particularly confirmed by the second Karabakh war, after which the balance of power in the Transcaucasia changed radically, to the detriment of Georgia’s former, almost monopolistic position in the region. Under these circumstances, the US attempt to padlock the Georgian “barn door” is no longer working, and the “cordon sanitaire” against Russia and Azerbaijan is falling apart.
Both Georgian media and many politicians of this Caucasian country have repeatedly stated that the US Embassy is working for a change of power in Georgia and that opposition leaders and heads of influential NGOs are among its “agents.” They claim, for example, that not only former President Mikheil Saakashvili but also his successor, Giorgi Margvelashvili, were working for Washington. A confirmation of Washington’s above-mentioned policy towards Georgia is the statement of US House of Representatives member Adam Kinzinger on September 9 that “pro-Russian influencers should be expelled from Tbilisi.” And the inspiration for such actions among the Georgian population, according to this senator, should be the Georgian Legion fighting in Ukraine, whose militants have already tainted themselves with involvement in the torture and killing of captive Russian servicemen near Kiev.
Relations between the Georgian government and the US Embassy have become strained. The main credit here belongs to the US Ambassador to Georgia, Kelly Degnan, who has increasingly often made what Georgian politicians consider to be overly critical and inappropriate, for a diplomat, statements. For example, in her interview with Georgian media on August 17 this year, she referred to the June 20, 2019 coup attempt by the opposition as “Gavrilov’s Night,” after the Russian State Duma deputy Sergei Gavrilov, who at the time was in Tbilisi. This was the last straw that overflowed the “cup of patience” of the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, convincing many in the Georgian government that the “support for military rhetoric,” desire for unrest and illegal change of power in Georgia stemmed largely from the US Embassy. However, as former MP Sozar Subari pointed out, it was the US Ambassador who went to great lengths to secure the release of the criminals (Nika Melia, Irakli Okruashvili and Gigi Ugulava), who were indicted for the events of June 20, from jail.
The US Ambassador’s statements, in the style of Georgian opposition rhetoric, have proved irritating to many Georgian analysts. Independent Georgian MP Mikhail Kavelashvili, in an open letter to US Ambassador Kelly Degnan, accused her of supporting those Georgians who stand for the country’s involvement in the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.
According to analyst Zaal Anjaparidze, Ambassador Degnan “showed her claws,” clearly intending to make the Georgian government feel that the US Embassy is “quite angry at it.”
As a result, Georgian politicians have been increasingly asking themselves, just how acceptable to the Georgian society such a tone of the US Ambassador and, in general, the demonstratively contemptuous, bull-in-a-china-shop-like behavior of the US authorities towards Georgia really are?
Kelly Degnan will be finishing her ambassadorial work in Georgia in a few months’ time, and the political community in the Caucasus republic is eagerly awaiting her departure. The fact that the mission of US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan “ended in failure” was recently announced by former Minister of State for Conflict Resolution, filmmaker Giorgi Khaindrava, who stressed that after the statements made by Degnan “a self-respecting diplomat would not have stayed in Georgia.” Giorgi Khaindrava is sure that Ambassador Degnan failed “to improve relations” and started “to teach wisdom and propagate pseudo-ideals” in Georgia instead.
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.