On March 14, the “Unknown World News” program of the pro-government Maestro TV aired an interview with Scott Ritter, a former United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspector and well-known Kremlin propagandist. Ritter spoke about the protests in Tbilisi against the draft law on the “transparency of foreign influence” and amplified narratives voiced by the Kremlin.
Myth Detector identified the following three manipulative messages in Ritter’s interview:
- The draft law “On transparency of foreign influence” registered by the “People’s Power” movement is a direct copy of the American FARA;
- The US is using Georgia to create a crisis to destabilize Russia and wants to open a second front in Georgia;
- The US imposes values that are unacceptable to Georgia.
A fragment of Scott Ritter’s interview, where he talks about the attempts to open a second front against Russia, was also covered in the Russian propaganda media RT на русском, rg.ru, ura.news, iz.ru). The full version of Scott Ritter’s interview was published on the YouTube channel “U.S. Tour of Duty” on March 11.
The draft law “On transparency of foreign influence” registered by the “People’s Power” movement is a direct copy of the American FARA;
In the interview, Scott Ritter claims that the law initiated by the “People’s Power” fraction on the “transparency of foreign influence” is analogous to the American FARA. The same claim was voiced by the authors of the bill and government officials, not to mention, a similar narrative was disseminated in the Russian media as well. The message about the alleged similarity between the two bills was highlighted by pro-government TV Imedi as well.
The group “People’s Power”, which has formally separated itself from the incumbent Georgian Dream party but remains in the parliamentary majority, registered two draft laws. According to the draft law on the “Transparency of Foreign Influence”, all non-commercial legal entities, including non-governmental and media organizations, who receive more than 20% of their annual income from foreign funds, should be registered as agents of foreign influence. According to the second initiated draft law “On Registration of Foreign Agents”, registration as an agent was required for any individual and legal entity that received financing from abroad, and non-fulfilment of the obligation was punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 5 years. People’s Power argued that the latter was a direct translation of FARA.
Regarding the American FARA, the East-West Management Institute published a legal analysis prepared by the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ICNL) and the European Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ECNL). The analysis notes that FARA requires an organization to register as an agent only when the entity is acting on the direct instructions of a foreign government. Below are the key features that distinguish the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) from the draft law initiated by People’s Power.
- Under FARA one does not have to register simply because one receives funds from a foreign source. Rather one must be an agent of a foreign principal, such as if one acts at the direction and control of a foreign government.
- Many US non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media organizations receive foreign grants and other support, but the US has not required them to register as foreign agents under FARA.
- Only about 5% of those registered under FARA are non-profit organizations. Of the small number of non-profit organizations that are registered, they are frequently overseas branches of foreign political parties.
In the US, the law (FARA) was adopted in 1938, before World War II, to prevent Nazi propaganda. Later, the law was adapted, the scope of its action was narrowed, and now it mainly applies to foreign lobbying organizations and lobbyists.
The protest held on March 7-9 resulted from the draft law initiated by “People’s Power” and then adopted by the Parliament in the first reading. On March 9, the ruling “Georgian Dream” party issued a statement that it would withdraw the draft law, and at the plenary session held on March 10th, the Parliament of Georgia dropped the draft law on “transparency of foreign influence” in the second reading.
The US is using Georgia to create a crisis to destabilize Russia and wants to open a second front in Georgia
Scott Ritter claims that the US wants to “open a second front in Georgia” against Russia, to distract it from Ukraine. Moreover, claimed that this is the reason why young people shout at rallies – “Sokhumi, Sokhumi”. He added that if Georgia had to go to war with Russia, it does not have enough resources for resistance and would not be able to survive in the event of a confrontation. The claims voiced by Ritter aim to instil fears in the population.
Notably, Scott Ritter repeats the manipulative message of Kremlin propagandists Margarita Simonyan and Vladimir Solovyov in this case as well. In fact, during the March 9 protest, Irakli Pavlenishvili, a member of the “United National Movement,” said in his speech that he is from Eredvi, Tskhinvali, occupied by Russia, and his life’s goal is to return there and expel the occupiers. “Everyone should return to Gagra, Sokhumi, Tskhinvali, Eredvi, said Favlenishvili. After that, he started chanting the word Sukhumi, and other participants of the rally joined him. According to DFRlab, this part of the video with Simonyan and Solovyov was manipulated by the propaganda media (Tsargrad TV) to create a false impression as if the real goal of the protesters was to open a second front with Russia.
The messages as if the US and the West are trying to drag Georgia into the war are often voiced by representatives of “People’s Power”, government experts and various platforms. For instance, Mikheil Kavelashvili, the representative of the “People’s Power” movement, said in July 2022 that Bidzina Ivanishvili met with the US ambassador to Georgia, and the ambassador asked him to “open a second front.”
The US ambassador and other representatives of the United States of America have repeatedly denied the claim that the US wants to involve Georgia in the war with Russia.
Kelly Degnan, US Ambassador to Georgia, June 23, 2022: “Statements that the US wants to drag Georgia into the war, or open a second front, are 100% Russian disinformation.”
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Karen Donfried, called the statements about the alleged attempts to “open a second front” disinformation.
“It’s not in our interests; we don’t want it. If I can do anything to dispel this misinformation or disinformation, I’d be happy to. The goal of the United States is to end this war. There is one person on this planet who can end the war today. This person is Vladimir Putin. I urge him to make this decision before other innocent Ukrainians die,” Karen Donfried told “Netgazeti.”
In 2022, the Secretary of the Security Council of occupied Abkhazia, Sergei Shamba, also claimed that the West was pushing Georgia to open a “second front” in Abkhazia.
The narrative that the US is using Georgia as a foothold against Russia has been active for years now. The narrative appears in the “Anti-Western Propaganda” reports of the “Media Development Foundation” every year. The 2020 report included 47 different quotes from various pro-Russian actors on this topic.
The US imposes values that are unacceptable to Georgia
In the interview, Scot Ritter noted that the US forces the population of Georgia to adhere to values that are acceptable to the US, although Georgians do not like, for example, respect for diversity. According to him, the US has a very liberal approach to the LGBTQI community, although it is foreign to the population of Georgia, and the US is trying to impose unacceptable traditions upon the Georgian people.
The message that the West is imposing homosexuality, paedophilia and depraved lifestyles and fighting traditional identity/church has also been around for years. The message aims to manipulate public opinion, target more vulnerable groups of society, and shift the focus from Russian military aggression to other issues.
About Scott Ritter
Scott Ritter is presented by the Kremlin media as a Western expert and is often cited and quoted to support Russian propaganda regarding the war in Ukraine. Scott Ritter claimed that the Bucha massacre was staged. Ritter often appears on Russian government-controlled channels and various Facebook pages, and his comments are shared by Russian embassies in various countries.
Ritter was the chief UN Weapons Instructor from 1991 to 98. After resigning, he became an active critic of the US government. Ritter has repeatedly been embroiled in an online sex scandal involving minors. For the first time, in 2001, he spent six months in prison. In 2009, Ritter was arrested again on similar charges and, in 2011, was found guilty of six charges. He was sentenced to 1.5 to 5.5 years in prison. He was released on bail in 2014.
For more details about the disinformation disseminated by Scott Ritter, see the articles prepared by “Myth Detector:”
- Kremlin Expert Questions the Blame of the Russian Soldiers in the Bucha Massacre
- 3 Ukraine-related Disinformation Disseminated by Russian Propaganda Platforms
- The Document Allegedly Depicting the Losses of Ukraine is Fabricated