Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of Caucasian Journal: Dear Laura, it is always a pleasure to meet you – virtually for the time being, but maybe also in person before long: I know that you are planning to be back to Georgia soon. You have worked in Tbilisi for a long period as the head of National Democratic Institute, so you are one of the most competent international experts when it comes to Georgia’s politics and sociology. What’s your attitude to Georgia now, and will you be visiting us this time as an expert?
Laura THORNTON: Well, I am not sure I am an expert, just an interested observer! My attitude toward Georgia is always one of hopeful optimism and desire for the country’s success. I believe Georgia faces similar challenges to many other places, including my own country. There is an alarming rise of authoritarian threats – both external and internal – which is impacting the quality of our democratic function. Deep polarization is paralyzing governance and thwarting democracy’s ability to deliver, which drives people into the arms of illiberal forces. Information integrity is the subtext of much of this, with disinformation efforts sowing discontent and exacerbating divisions. As I’ve said before, democracy is Georgia’s greatest asset and I believe in Georgian democrats to overcome these challenges by supporting pluralism, checks and balances, a robust civil society, and rule of law.