CHVRINISI, GEORGIA — In a lush meadow near the tiny Georgian village of Chvrinisi, Amiran Jeiranashvili has tended a herd of cattle for decades. But a few weeks ago, he followed his cows across an irrigation ditch and discovered he had strolled into enemy territory.
Jeiranashvili was the latest to encounter a problem that has bedeviled Georgia, a small former Soviet nation in the Caucuses, for years now: Russian encroachment.
In 2008, Georgia and Russia fought a brutal five-day war over this piece of land, as Russia encouraged a group of separatists called South Ossetians to formally declare independence from Georgian authority. Since then, Russia has quietly continued to support Ossetia’s independence movement, building military outposts and setting up barbed wire fencing in the middle of the night — sometimes even unilaterally declaring parcels of land no longer part of Georgia, without any sort of sign or notice.
VICE News visited the unsettled land last month, on the ten-year anniversary of the war, to see what Georgian officials insisted was an unstoppable string of international incidents by Russia, and to hear what many officials said was a key to stopping it: Membership in NATO.
Back in 2008, that was something that NATO officials formally promised Georgia. But after ten years of reforms and NATO joint military drills, and aggressively orienting itself toward the West, Georgia seems to be no closer to membership. And that’s leading some Georgians to quietly ask if the country needs to consider a plan B.
This segment originally aired August 29, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.