State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin regretted that the Georgian authorities refused to adopt a law on "foreign agents." Of course, according to Volodin, the country's leadership did not heed the will of the people as a result of mass protests, but "bent under Washington."
“In the event of the adoption of the law on foreign agents, Georgia received the right to control the funds transferred to the country from abroad to finance political parties, or, simply speaking, the opposition, the media, and public organizations that form the anti-Georgian agenda. And this means that it is the citizens of Georgia who would influence decisions made in various areas: from elections to government bodies to the implementation of country development projects. But it all ended with the fact that through the use of the lever of soft power, Washington brought people out into the street. The Georgian authorities were forced to submit, but not to the will of the people, but to the United States. Therefore, the bill on foreign agents being considered in the Georgian parliament was unacceptable to the United States. He limited the influence of Washington on the domestic political life of the country. With its removal from consideration in Parliament, Georgia has lost a chance for sovereignty,” Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel.
Statements that Washington somehow brought several thousand demonstrators to the streets of Georgia are not supported by any facts - but, however, they fully fit into the logic of the Russian authorities that in no country in the world people can protest against the authorities in their own way. will, only for the "cookies of the State Department." In both the US and the EU, the Georgian bill, which required all non-profit legal entities and media outlets that are more than 20% funded from abroad, to register as “foreign agents”, expectedly caused disapproval. Specifically, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the proposed law would "stigmatize and silence the independent voices and citizens of Georgia who are committed to building a better future for their communities." However, if Volodin hints that the protests in the country began because of the words of the representative of the State Department, he is openly flattering Ned Price.
Of course, Volodin's ingenuous statement that the scandalous bill is aimed primarily at fighting the opposition is touching. It’s just that it’s not very clear what the “anti-Georgian agenda” is. The Power of the People movement, which introduced the controversial bill, is broadcasting anti-Western rhetoric - so it could be assumed that the initiative is really directed primarily against non-profit organizations funded from the US and the EU. However, it is not clear why the desire to see Georgia in the European Union and in good relations with the United States is “anti-Georgian” for Volodin.
The State Duma speaker's statement that the Georgian law is allegedly a complete analogue of the similar law in the US (FARA) also does not correspond to reality. One important difference is that FARA does not require registration based solely on foreign funding. “Rather, you need to be an agent of a foreign principal, including if he acts on the instructions and under the control of a foreign government,” says the report of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, located in Washington. "Many U.S. non-profit groups and media organizations receive foreign grants and other support, but the U.S. does not require them to register as foreign agents under FARA."
American law primarily restricts political lobbying, and not the activities of public organizations and the media. In fact, just 5% of those registered under FARA are non-profit groups, and even these are mostly branches of foreign political parties, the report says.
Volodin also repeats the favorite fake of the Russian authorities, including Vladimir Putin, that in the Russian Federation "the norms of the federal law on foreign agents are more liberal than in the United States." Even in 2018, this was no longer true (The Insider wrote about why the Russian law is much tougher than the American one). However, in 2023, Volodin's words sound simply mocking. US law contains a clear definition of a foreign agent: a natural or legal person who "works under the control and direct direction of a foreign "principal" and in his direct interests" and at the same time participates in political activities, the concept of which is also clearly defined. And the law on foreign agents in the Russian Federation in its current modification allows you to declare any organization or person as such - just an unsubstantiated assertion that he or she is under some kind of “foreign influence” is enough (what this is, it is not clear from the law). In the United States, a “foreign agent” is not prohibited from political activities, and in general there are no special restrictions for him. In Russia, a virtually complete ban on the political activities of a “foreign agent” has been established. In addition, according to the new version of the law, they are prohibited from teaching in public schools and universities, conducting creative activities at the expense of the budget, participating in procurement under government contracts, and conducting environmental assessments.
Finally, Volodin once again repeats that, unlike the United States, Russia "advocates non-interference in the internal affairs of other states." At the same time, two sentences later, he clarifies: “We have complicated relations with Georgia. There are none at the inter-parliamentary level.” For some reason, Volodin is embarrassed to name the reasons for this. Perhaps because Russia's bombing of Georgia in 2008 is precisely "intervention in the internal affairs" of other countries, and even the speaker of the State Duma understands this.