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The Daily Vertical: Strategic Salami Tactics In Georgia (Transcript)


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The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

With everything else going on, it was easy to miss.

But while our attention was elsewhere, Russia effectively just seized a little bit more Georgian territory.

According to media reports, last week Russian troops in the occupied South Ossetia region moved the administrative boundary line 700 meters deeper into the rest of Georgia.

Additionally, the troops erected new green signs marking the so-called "border."

As a result, Georgian farmers in the villages of Bershueti and Sobisi now have their land divided between two sides of a Russian-manufactured frozen conflict.

Now these salami tactics have, of course, been going on for years and they clearly serve a strategic purpose.

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Russian troops are now less than half a kilometer from the highway linking Baku to Tbilisi and the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi, one of the main transportation arteries in the South Caucasus.

But this little trick of moving the conflict line is also part of a psychological game aimed at legitimizing Russia's occupation of one fifth of Georgia's internationally recognized territory.

Because every time Moscow moves the boundary line, every time they put up one of those green signs, we all start talking about how Russia is moving the "border" with South Ossetia.

But words matter and language has consequences.

Georgia and South Ossetia don't have a border. And every time we refer to one, even inadvertently, we help legitimize the occupation of Georgian territory.

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