Georgian anti-government protesters rally outside the parliament as lawmakers vote to call off controversial "foreign agent" bill that sparked an international outcry and mass protests in the Caucasus country earlier this week, in Tbilisi on March 10, 2023. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

As protests erupted in Georgia against the proposed "foreign agent" bill, some critics argued that the move was a part of a larger pattern of US influence and color revolutions in the region.

The bill, which was withdrawn after two days of protests, would have required organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from overseas to register as "foreign agents" or face substantial fines. Protesters in Georgia compared the proposed law to Russia's 2012 legislation, which has been used to suppress western-funded NGOs and media.

Some Georgians fear that the introduction of such a law would harm the country's chances of joining the EU. The opposition has vowed to continue protesting until the government formalizes the legislation's withdrawal and releases all detained protesters, but later has demanded the resignation of the parliament.

Interestingly, The Foreign Agent Law (also known as Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA) is a US law that was first passed in 1938. It requires individuals and organizations working on behalf of foreign governments, political parties, or lobbying organizations to register with the US Department of Justice and disclose their activities, finances, and relationships with foreign entities.

The law was originally enacted to counteract Nazi propaganda efforts in the US prior to World War II. In recent years, the law has gained renewed attention due to concerns over foreign interference in US elections and political affairs, particularly from Russia.

Other countries have passed similar laws, including Canada, Australia, and Israel, among others. The exact requirements and penalties vary by country, but generally, individuals and organizations are required to register with government agencies and disclose their activities, and failure to do so can result in fines, imprisonment, or deportation.

In the United States, failure to register as a foreign agent under FARA can result in both civil and criminal penalties, including heavy fines and imprisonment for up to five years. The US government has increasingly used FARA to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations for activities related to foreign influence, including lobbying and political activities.

Individuals who violate FARA can also face additional charges, such as conspiracy or making false statements to federal investigators. In 2018, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted on multiple charges related to his failure to register as a foreign agent under FARA. Manafort had worked as a political consultant for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and was found to have received millions of dollars in payments that he failed to disclose.

In 2019, the Flynn Intel Group, a consulting firm owned by former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, was found to have violated FARA by failing to register as a foreign agent for the government of Turkey. The firm was fined $536,000 and one of its associates pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators.

The Foreign Agent Law is in fact about transparency. Although the organisations are obliged to declare funds received from foreign sources, their activities are not necessarily restricted. Punishments are issued for failing to declare funding.

At the same time USA has given billions of dollars in funding to NGOs, “Think Tanks” and other organisations and institutions in other countries with the purpose of influencing the politics of the country to be more pro-US and push or punish governments with views independent of the US foreign policy. Other semi-governmental or private organization like the Soros Foundation have also actively funded opposition groups in different countries such as Hungary where Soros is regarded as persona non grata by Viktor Orbán government.

At the same time as Protests are ongoing in Georgia, Samantha Power's visit to Hungary has raised eyebrows and concerns about US interference in Hungary's democratic process. The former national security council member, now USAID Administrator, has promised to support "locally driven initiatives" and "strengthen democratic institutions," but many Hungarians are wary of what this actually means. Only in 2021, USAID allocated approximately $2.3 billion in foreign assistance funding for programs related to ”democracy, human rights, and governance”, mainly to NGOs opposing governments unfavorable to the US.

According to a US Embassy press release, Power's visit is meant to support democracy in Hungary, which is a democratic country and a member of the European Union and NATO alliance. However, the current government, which won re-election in 2022, has been taking independent stance on various issues such as the Russia-Ukraine war, immigration, same-sex marriage, and LGBT rights. This has not been pleasant to the US government and the deep state which demands total obedience from allies and punishes disobedience from others with sanctions and military force.

Many believe that Power's visit is an attempt to undermine the current government, which Washington and Brussels dislike. The idea that the US Government needs to spend taxpayer dollars to support opposition newspapers in Hungary, a democratic NATO ally, is insulting and manipulative, some say. If the situation were reversed, and China were dedicating tens of millions of dollars to promoting its own ideological interests in the United States, it would be seen as unacceptable interference. In fact, the US government has used the same FARA law to force Russian and Chinese news agencies to register as foreign agents, but not British state owned BBC or other government owned agencies from allied countries.

The idea that US support for democracy in Hungary is a cover for advancing US strategic and ideological interests is not new. The language of "rule of law," "independent journalism," and "strengthening democracy" is often used as a cover for promoting specific ideological agendas that benefit globalist elites. Many in Hungary are skeptical of Power's promise to "support independent media," as they believe that the media is already diverse and critical of the government.

Furthermore, many are concerned about USAID's focus on advancing wokeness as part of its strategy, according to its 2022 Joint Strategic Plan. The idea that liberal elites are exporting the revolution of wokeness to Central Europe is seen as a cause for concern by many.

In the end, the concern is that Power's visit is part of a larger strategy to promote a Color Revolution in Hungary, which could have disastrous consequences, as seen in other countries. It remains to be seen what the actual impact of Power's visit will be, but many in Hungary are wary of what it could mean for their country's democratic process.

Hungary does not have an exact equivalent to the United States' Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), but it has a similar law that requires foreign-funded organizations to register with the government and report their activities.

In Hungary, the law is called the "Law on the Transparency of Organizations Receiving Foreign Funding," and it was enacted in 2017. Under the law, NGOs that receive more than 24,000 euros annually in funding from foreign sources are required to register with the government and report their activities, including financial transactions and expenditures.

As for Georgia, the events are looking disturbingly like the Maidan riots of Kyiv in 2014 and the previous color revolution of Georgia itself which resulted in a regime change and instalment of Mikheil Saakashvili, a US educated lawyer as the leader of Georgia.

Saakashvili served as the President of Georgia from 2004 to 2013. He was known for his pro-Western stance and his efforts and pursued a policy of closer integration with the European Union and NATO, which was met with opposition from Russia. After leaving office, Saakashvili became involved in Ukrainian politics, was given Ukrainian citizenship and was installed as the Governor of Odessa from 2015 to 2016, but was later stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and deported from Ukraine.

The current government of Georgia, led by the Dream coalition of Bidzina Ivanishvili was democratically elected in 2012 in an internationally monitored election. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent a large team of observers to Georgia to monitor the election process. The mission was led by a special coordinator, and included around 300 observers from 39 countries, including the United States, European Union, and Council of Europe.