In early April, the US State Department took an unprecedented decision against Georgia, sanctioning four Georgian judges. asked experts to assess the consequences of this move and whether they expect it to have a continuation.

It is a new decision for Georgia but not an unprecedented action from the State Department. To date, the international community has approached Georgia’s democratic backsliding with buckets of carrots but no sticks. Given the size of the country, Georgia has always received an enormous amount of attention and investment. Much of this has been because of Georgia’s greatest asset – its democracy. In a tricky and undemocratic region, Georgia has been a shining beacon and a trusted ally.

However, in recent years, the government has been squandering this asset. As I and others have written, the Georgian Dream government’s messages, as well as actions, have revealed a move away from both the West and democracy. GD leaders have hurled insults at EU and American leaders and diplomats, served as a sanction-evasion conduit helping Russia, failed to demonstrate minimal support for Ukraine, threatened civil society and the media, failed to reform the judiciary, and abused state resources and security services for electoral control. GD leadership knows well that embracing the democratic reforms required to join the EU family forces them to compete on a more level playing field — thus threatening their power – and therefore is drifting the country into so-called “non-aligned” territory.

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