Estonian intelligence report 2020: ‘Russia’s focus will be on the US presidential, Georgian parliamentary elections

The intelligence report reads that Russia will aim for friendly candidates to win elections in the US and Georgia. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images., 17 Feb 2020 - 15:25, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Estonian intelligence report of 2020 reads that this year ‘Russia’s focus will certainly be on the US presidential and Georgian parliamentary elections.’ 

The report says that the main goal of Russia  is to ensure a more beneficial election result by favouring Russian-friendly candidates or those who have the most divisive influence in the West. 

Moreover, Russia wants to show that the west is failing to hold fair elections, which is an opportunity to divert attention away from Russia’s own problems and use the well-worn rhetoric of Western double standards.” 

The report states that in 2019, Russia ‘clearly stepped up’ its military and security-political pressure on Georgia.

The Russian armed forces have had a substantial presence in occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia since Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. The Russian units in the occupied territories are well equipped and armed and participate in regular exercises. In September 2019, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would also fund the modernisation and re-armament of the Abkhaz ‘armed forces’”.

The report says that at occupation lines, separating occupied Tskhinvali (South Ossetia)  from the rest of Georgia, ‘2019 was likely the most intense year of the past decade.’ 

Attempts to shift the occupation line deeper into Georgia-controlled territory increased and intensified, with separatist militias near the occupation line becoming more aggressive and provocative than before, even resorting to physical threats against European Union Monitoring Mission patrols.” 

2019 was likely the most intense year of the past decade at occupation lines in Georgia, the report says. Photo: Nino Alavidze/ 

The report states that in addition to the use of hard power, influence activities are also part of the traditional arsenal employed by Russia in the South Caucasus. 

A classic example of this is the Yevgeny Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Centre in Georgia, a local ‘branch’ of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, which acts as an instrument of Russian influence activities. In Georgia, the Primakov Centre organises Russian language courses, introduces Russian culture and history, and organises conferences and seminars. The real purpose of these seemingly innocent activities is to make Georgia’s current and future elite more receptive to Russia’s political and economic ambitions.” 

The report says that the recent years have also seen a ‘significant increase’ in propaganda to promote so-called traditional values in Georgia.

The Georgian March, an umbrella organisation for extremist movements established in 2017, plays a major role in this. Its mission is to resist the values supposedly imposed on Georgian society by the West, allegedly threatening the very existence of the Georgian people and society. It is an aggressive movement that does not shy away from physical attacks against its opponents. It is aimed at rattling public support for joining the European Union and NATO – a foreign policy consensus that has held for nearly 15 years – as well as creating internal tensions and escalating conflict within Georgian society.”

The report says that among the leaders of the Georgian March are several individuals with ties to Russia and its influence activities.