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How Strong Is Russia’s Soft Power in Georgia?

Georgian soldiers assigned to a US battalion patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in July 2013. Although not yet a NATO member, debate over joining the Western military alliance has some parliamentarians questioning whether closer economic integration with Russia might be better. (Photo: Cpl. Alejandro Pena/US Marine Corps)

Few Westerners doubt the South Caucasus country of Georgia’s commitment to eventual integration with Europe. But as a massive currency devaluation tightens the squeeze on Georgia’s relatively fragile economy, calls are increasing for ordinary Georgians to reconsider the actual benefits of that commitment.
 
Increasingly, the objections target the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which expects to have a training center in Georgia by the end of the year. Amidst the war in Ukraine with Russian-backed separatists, that, perhaps, comes as no surprise. 
 
But the complaints run parallel with an economic argument, one that focuses on the supposed advantages of greater trade with Russia or the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union, and what Georgia, after seeing its currency lose 30 percent of its value against the dollar earlier this year, needs to do to survive. 
 

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Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.

How Strong Is Russia’s Soft Power in Georgia?

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