On July 6, Georgian news outlets announced that Russian troops moved the demarcation line of the breakaway South Ossetia a further 500 meters south. Russian troops are now reportedly only 400 meters away from the major east-west highway (Baku-Tbilisi-Kutaisi-Poti) which goes across Georgia and is of major importance to the region’s economy. By cutting the highway, as it did in 2008 war, the Russians can easily split Georgia into two parts. From a regional perspective, the military threat to the highway also concerns neighboring countries, as for the moment it is the only major road used to bring Azerbaijani goods to the Black Sea littoral, which sees active trade between Azerbaijan and Turkey.
It’s all about geography. A look at Russian moves over the past several years in South Ossetia would leave readers with the impression of total chaos on the Russian side. However, it’s geography that explains Russia’s seemingly sporadic moves in the breakaway territory. If you drive along the major east-west highway just about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, it is hard to notice that in several sections, the South Ossetia’s demarcation line is just several hundreds of meters to the north. If you turn north however, it gradually becomes easier to see the artificial fences and concrete barriers blocking the way.