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Is the US Doomed to Fail Democratisation of Its Allies? The Case of Georgia

Open Panel

Abstract

According to some political observers, the US pursued rather misguided policies towards post-Soviet countries during the last twenty years. First, the Clinton administration ‘lost’ Russia. Then, the Bush administration similarly began to ‘lose’ Georgia and Ukraine. As a consequence, the US ability to act as an anchor of democratic change may be called into question. The aim of this paper is to trace mechanisms how US security interests distort its democracy protection policies. As a case study, Georgia in the period after the Rose revolution has been chosen. The paper investigates two different levels of US democracy protection policies: diplomatic and programmatic. At the diplomatic level, the inquiry focuses on US-Georgian bilateral relations and, especially, on US commitment to the principle of democratic conditionality. Findings of this case study reveal that the Bush administration offered unconditional support to President Saakashvili and largely ignored his less-than-democratic behaviour. At the programmatic level, the inquiry focuses on US democracy assistance programmes of different types (constitutional assistance, electoral aid, political party building, NGO building, and media strengthening). Evidence obtained from interviews with US democracy aid providers and recipients in Georgia shows that some of these programmes were politically biased due to US security interests. The paper concludes that US democracy protection policy had a negative impact on democratic consolidation in Georgia when US security goals prevailed over its democratisation goals. This tension seems to be perpetual in US foreign policy making, and can be predicted to surface in Obama’s foreign policies as well.