A career American diplomat slated to be named the new ambassador to Georgia has apparently been rebuffed by the small Caucasus nation because some in the Georgian government believe she is too favorable toward a pro-Western former president, according to several diplomatic sources.
Current and former officials in Washington told Foreign Policy that Georgia has indicated it will not sign a diplomatic agreement—known in diplomacy as an agrément—accepting the nomination of Bridget Brink, a career foreign service officer with extensive experience in Europe and two past tours in Georgia, because of her alleged predisposition toward former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Officials in both countries who spoke to FP contest the allegation that Brink supports Saakashvili. They characterized Brink as a professional who has never indicated a preference for Saakashvili or his party, the United National Movement. One official said Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell advocated hard for Brink’s nomination behind the scenes.
The State Department declined to comment, referring the matter to the White House, which has not yet formally announced an ambassador nomination to Georgia. A senior administration official said, “The Trump administration puts forward strong, qualified candidates for ambassadorial positions and is making every effort to fill these positions as quickly as possible, including in Georgia. We do not comment on the status of internal processes.”
A spokesperson for the government of Georgia declined to comment on the matter.
The resistance to Brink’s nomination appears to underscore how far the Georgian government has evolved since the tenure of Saakashvili, who was fervently pro-Western and opposed to Russian interference. Since 2012, the government has been dominated by the Georgian Dream party, which has continued Georgia’s Western trajectory while balancing improved ties with Moscow.
Multiple U.S. and Georgian sources suggested that the founder of Georgian Dream, former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili—the country’s richest person, who remains a significant political power broker—was behind the decision, although it was difficult to independently confirm the allegation. A billionaire who made much of his money in Moscow in the 1990s, Ivanishvili does not hold elected office in Georgia but is understood to play an outsized role in political decision-making.
Ivanishvili’s favored candidate, Salome Zurabishvili, won the presidency last month over Grigol Vashadze, who was considered a political disciple of Saakashvili. International monitors said government tampering skewed the vote.
“We presume that he [Ivanishvili] has direct influence on major decisions, but we don’t know what areas he’s involved in closely or which he delegates to others, we can only guess,” said Ghia Nodia, a professor of politics at Tbilisi’s Ilia State University.
A spokesperson for Ivanishvili could not be reached.
Since the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, some 20 percent of Georgian territory is under Moscow’s de facto control in contested breakaway regions not recognized as independent by most of the international community.