Russia/Georgia: Border creep – more salami, thinner slices…
Summary: small scale Russian land grabs in Georgia are designed to go unnoticed.
Some analysts and journalists have picked up unauthorised realignments between the border of the Russia-controlled Georgian region of South Ossetia and Georgia. To Georgia’s detriment.
BBC, 10 August: Late on 10 July, Russian troops placed new demarcation signposts along the administrative boundary between the annexed territory of South Ossetia, which was removed from Georgia’s jurisdiction by force in the war of 2008, and Tbilisi-controlled territory.
Crucially, a further 1.5km into the Georgian territory was added overnight. The new “border” is now a de facto occupation line, just a mile away from a major highway linking Georgia’s eastern and western regions
Not only did this “land grab” disrupt the lives of villagers, whose households ended up overnight within the Russian-controlled territory, a kilometre-long section of the BP-operated Baku-Supsa oil pipeline also now lies outside of Tbilisi’s reach.
Al Jazeera, 16 July “On July 16, Moscow-backed security forces moved the administrative boundary fence dividing the Russian occupied region of South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia – thereby placing more Georgian territory under Russian control.”
Georgia is still a frontline of sorts. although Russia’s “engagement” in Ukraine takes the lion’s share of the headlines. Georgia is extremely keen to break out of the historic, and frequently bloody, grip Russia has had over it. Its government is seeking membership of the EU and NATO, to the extreme disquiet of Russia which would prefer to keep Georgia in its orbit. Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008, at which point Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another region of Georgia, as independent states.
This looks to be another small-scale nibbling around the edges of someone else’s nation state, perhaps with an element of gas and oil pipeline politics thrown in. Russia is perfecting the idea of “salami-slice” tactics whereby an undeniably hostile act is timed carefully and so limited in scope such that, if it is noticed at all, it hardly seems worth the international community kicking up a fuss. It’s a micro-invasion.
This is likely seen by Russia to be a successful approach that is difficult to challenge, particularly when the aim is to unsettle and destabilise rather than blatantly invade, which is much more troublesome and expensive. We should certainly expect more – but where? Perhaps we need to be more alert during world events that might distract international media and governments (a Greek economic crisis, international sporting event, ISIS/terrorism)…