The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee’s report on Russia, “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security,” dedicates a chapter on Putin’s tactics in Georgia.
The report recalls Russia’s attack on Georgia in the 2008 August war; The US Senate emphasizes that it was the first time Russia used a cyber-attack:
“Despite the seemingly sudden escalation into a hot war, the Georgian government accused the Russian government of preparing the hybrid battlefield a month before the invasion. As early as July 20, the Georgian government experienced distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and President Mikheil Saakashvili’s website was forced to shut down for 24 hours.As Russian troops entered Georgian territory on August 8, the websites of the Georgian president, the parliament, the ministries of defense and foreign affairs, the national bank, and several news outlets were hit with cyber attacks. The Georgian government accused the Russian government of conducting these attacks, which the Kremlin denied,” the report reads.
The report also talks about the change in government in Georgia the aftermath of the Rose Revolution in 2003, and how much closer Georgia has come to the Western world since.
The US Senate notes the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit, when the alliance countries discussed the possibility of offering Georgia a membership action plan, and that Russia’s military attack on Georgia a few months later was partially connected with NATO.
The report also emphasizes the importance of Russian propaganda in Georgia:
“Beyond its military assaults on Georgian territory, the Russian government also supports a variety of pro-Kremlin political parties, NGOs, and propaganda efforts in the country. For example, Obiektivi TV, a media outlet, reportedly relied on Russian funding in its support of the ultra-nationalistic Alliance of Patriots political party. Obiektivi’s xenophobic, homophobic, and anti-western narrative helped the Alliance of Patriots clear the threshold to enter parliament during the October 2016 election. Russian propaganda in Georgia borders on the bizarre. For example, Russian propaganda asserts that the United States uses the ‘‘Richard Lugar Public Health Research Center’’ to carry out biological tests on the Georgian population.430 According to the Georgian government, several pro-Russian groups are active in the country, including the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies and Russkiy Mir Foundation, two well-known institutions that the Kremlin uses to exert its influence abroad”.
The chapter about Georgia ends with recommendations to the US Government:
“• Hybrid War is Here to Stay: The Georgia war was the first instance in which cyberattacks occurred alongside a military strike. These tools would be replicated and refined six years later in Ukraine. The Georgia case has and should continue to be very instructive for other states, like the Baltics, that are vulnerable to similar attacks by the Russian government.
• The Asymmetric Arsenal is Flexible: After using military aggression in Georgia, the Russian government maintained pressure and influence by using disinformation, support for NGOs, and interference in political affairs. While difficult to measure, the Russian government is able to exert considerable influence in Georgia using these different avenues.
• Western Commitment is Key: The United States and the EU have provided significant assistance and political support to Georgia in the years since the 2008 war in order to bolster democratic institutions and protect against Russian government aggression. This support has been essential in helping to prevent renewed Russian military aggression, but has not been sufficient in helping Georgia to confront the full range of Russian interference techniques.”