POLITICS
‘We need one more road to Georgia, repair it immediately!’ – Putin
23 October, 2014
The restoration of the Avar-Kakheti road is in the strategic interest of Russia. It will render Eastern Georgia completely unprotected.

Recently, the laying of a road from Dagestan to the Kvareli region has once again become a relevant issue. This has caused a diverse reaction in Georgia as well as in Dagestan.
The path from the North Caucasus to Georgia through the Main Caucasian Ridge existed from the 19th century. For Tsarist Russia it was a means of communication, and
had strategic significance because in case the Ottoman Empire invaded the South Caucasus, Russian army units could promptly be moved from the North Caucasus to Tiflis.
In the 1970s and 1980s the Russian Federation connected with the South Caucasian Republics through the four main transport corridors: in Abkhazia through the vehicle and railway bridges crossing the Psou River; in the Tskhinvali region- through the Roki vehicle tunnel; from Larsi through the Georgian Military Highway and in Azerbaijan through the vehicle and railway bridges passing along the Caspian Sea.
In the 1990s as a result of the two wars the vehicle roads through the Psou and Roki were partially blocked and the main emphasis was made on the Georgian Military Highway. At that time, in 1996 a Dagestan businessman Magomet Kebedov used his own money, to lay the 55-kilometer-long Avar-Kakheti earth-road out of which 36 kilometers on the Georgian territory were for the cross-country vehicles. This road was used for fuel smuggling. In 1997 the road was blocked by the border guard.
Before the second Chechen war, in autumn of 1999, active military operations were carried out in the Botlikhi region of Dagestan, adjacent to Avar-Kakheti road. At that time then-Prime Minister and later-President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, wanted not to restore this road but have it securely blocked in order not to let militants from Georgia and Azerbaijan join the armed units of Basaev and Khattab. But at the beginning of 2008 when with the help of Ramzan Kadirov, Putin actually managed to crush the patriotic movement of Chechnya for independence. The situation changed radically and he had time to focus on Georgia.
On February 4th, 2008, the Russian President unexpectedly visited Dagestan and inspected the 33rd mountain subdivision. There, in front of the TV cameras Vladimir Putin said a historic phrase that is relevant even today: “We need one more road to Georgia; repair it immediately.”
Then, in 2008 as the confrontation between Moscow and Tbilisi was becoming tenser by the day, these words of world’s most notorious warmonger were considered a forewarning of real threat coming from Kremlin. Unfortunately we couldn’t manage to avoid the war with Russia but at that time the Avar-Kakheti road was left functionless.
Today due to the Dagestan functionaries this issue was raised again. They held a round table in Makhachkala where it was declared that laying of an 83-kilometer-long Avar-Kakheti road would cost 28-32 million Russian Rubles and it’d connect Makhachkala with Tbilisi and its length would be only 470 kilometers. On the 83-kilometer-long section of the road it will be necessary to build five tunnels, 25 bridges and seven galleys as protection from avalanches.
What will the opening of Avar-Kakheti road mean for Georgia? On the one hand there is nothing better than laying a road to one’s neighbor because srelations will improve. What’s more, due to frequent landslides on the Georgian Military Highway, the Larsi section is not very secure. The transit turnover of goods will increase and it will be easier for Georgian peasants to take their harvest to the North Caucasus.
But this idea is sound if you have friendly and partner-like relations with that neighbor. But it’s of course impossible to say this about Russia, which has occupied two Georgian regions, declared their independence and is presumably planning to absorb the Tskhinvali and Abkhazia regions.
The desire expressed by Putin six years ago is relevant even today because restoration of the Avar-Kakheti road will enable the Kremlin to realize the almost two-century-old dream of Tsarist Russia to promptly deploy its military units, including heavy combat armament, to Eastern Georgia.
Someone may ask – why does Putin want to take tanks from Dagestan to Kakheti when he can attack Tbilisi from the occupied Akhalgori region?
The occupied Tskhinvali and Akhalgori do pose threat to Tbilisi but the appearance of Russian combat tactical groups in Eastern Georgia will pose a difficult situation not only for Tbilisi but also for the whole of Eastern Georgia.
Let’s not forget that since 1998 (when Shevardnadze dislocated the landing-combat troops to Poti) there is not a single combat division, to say anything about a unit (it’s likely not even worth to speak about the combat potential of the Telavi reservist cadre battalion). The main priority of the 4th mechanized and the 1st artillery brigades stationed in Vaziani is to defend the capital, not to build protective fortifications at Kvareli or Gurjaani.
There is one more important argument against the opening of Avar-Kakheti road. The recent information about the participation of Pankisi dwellers in the ranks of the Islamic Caliphate increases the threat of Kremlin using this as an excuse to carry out an anti-terrorist operation in the Pankisi Gorge, a threat that we evaded with difficulty in 2001-2002 because we managed to timely rout Chechen commander Gilaev’s group from the Pankisi Gorge. It is true that the Avar-Kakheti road goes from the Bezhti region of Dagestan to Kvareli, not to the Pankisi Gorge but there exists an asphalt road there from Kvareli to Akhmeta.
Also the Dagestanis and Ramzan Kadirov, the President of Chechnya, also support building a vehicle road from the North Caucasus to Georgia. He declares that in the 1990s from the Itum-Kala region of Chechnya, an earth road was laid to Akhmeta but it was stopped by the Georgian side in 1998. On February 15th, 2014, during a TV interview Ramzan Kadyrov declared that after resignation of President Saakashvili nothing can interfere with the laying of asphalt on the Itum-Kala road that will enable Chechens to have a passageway to Georgia and the Black Sea.

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