Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Less than unforeseen.

The Russians are reacting to the Moscow subway bombing by promising to crack down in Chechnya:
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would "restore order by the use of force" in the region, as part of its "quest to eliminate terrorists and bandits" there.
Predicting this, of course, would have been about as difficult as guessing in which direction the sun was going to rise this morning.

If I had to guess which country was most likely to take the path of systematic genocide as a terrorism fix, Russia would be my candidate. They've killed their own people in boxcar lots within living memory and, unlike Germany, haven't had to deal with fifty years of international tongue-clucking and scolding because of it. (Not that caring what others think has ever been a defining characteristic of Russian leadership anyway.) The Chechen separatist strategy doesn't strike me as very bright, poking this particular bear with this particular stick.


Anonymous said...

Poking the bear kinda worked for the mujahideen (back when Uncle Sugar was UBL's pal.)

Tam said...

The Afghan muj weren't detonating bombs in Moscow nor shooting up Russian schoolkids, as evidenced by the continued existence of most of Afghanistan.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

And UBL was never 'uncle sugar's' pal, friend.

Anonymous said...

All of this could be nicely summed up by saying, "Putin gonna wreck someone's shit."

Tam said...

Also, as George Friedman pointed out in the book I just finished, Russia is playing against a demographic shot clock and is well aware of it. Their population is expected to drop by as much as a third in the next fifty years, and will undergo a dramatic cultural skew at the same time; this can cause someone to rush their shot while they figure they have a chance.

Less said...

The interesting thing to take away from all of this is that a local, low-tech event now sets in motion a flawed foreign policy...

Truly along the lines of what John Robb said here:
"Failure as a Strategy"

I can't help but be reminded of the Crack Suicide Squad a la Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Anonymous said...

I'm no apologist for systematic genocide, Russian or otherwise, but if "Chechen separatist strategy" involves blowing up subway trains full of Russian schoolkids and other innocents, and taking out some "boxcar lots" of Chechen separatist strategists will make it go, bear.

OTOH, there's only one method by which Afghanistan, after sufficient stick-poking, could have had its very existence undone, and none of us wants to ponder that, so lets hope the boxcar lot method does the trick; we don't want any "rushed shots" that involve big red buttons.


alath said...

Stomping the disobedient seems to have worked well for them in Georgia. And didn't they just recently get a more Moscow-friendly government in the Ukraine? Not going to say that was a direct effect of Ukrainian dissidents dying slowly of radiation poisoning in the international media, but it might not have been entirely unrelated, either.

Another way to look at it: in the last 10 years, whose uses of military force have been more effective in producing the desired results: US or Russia?

Joanna said...

Tourist: Can I feed the bears?

Guide: That's against the rules, sir.

Tourist: Can I let my kids play with the bears?

Guide: That would be feeding the bears, sir.

theirritablearchitect said...

"...The Chechen separatist strategy doesn't strike me as very bright, poking this particular bear with this particular stick."

It's their tactic, despicable as it may be, to take the offensive posture. I'm sure they have their reasons, and I'm equally sure that they got the reaction they were looking for from Moscow.

Ed Foster said...

Chechens usually beat the crap out of Russians, and don't mind getting blown up. Georgians aren't quite so bloody-handed.

But the Russian effort in Georgia was, from their pount of view, essentially an all out effort, which doesn't say much for what the Russian military is now capable of acheiving.

At that, they lost the head of their bomber school training program when the Georgians shot down the Backfire he was flying.

Almost the last flyable Backfire they hadn't sold to the Chinese, flown by the last man they had who was capable of getting it off the ground.

They've been hiring Cossacks to do their military work, because regular Russians simply don't show up when they get their draft notices. Better than a 60% refusenik rate, too big to do anything about.

That would be O.k., if the Cossacks weren't mostly poorly trained thugs trading on Great-Grandfather's mystique

Essentially they have gone to a "professional" military, which is small and vodka soaked. And every ass-kicking they take in Chechenia reduces the public's already large contempt for the military, along with the money for beans and bullets.

If I were a Russian, I'd try to pretend that I was Polish or Czech, and figure out some way of escaping the ship before it founders completely. Which, with today's drooping oil prices won't be long.

Aaron said...

Putin just eliminated two whole time zones, and if he can do that with such aplomb, the Chechens may be in for a beat-down.

Of course, this is the same regime is helping the Islamics in Iran get nukes, not that that Iranians would ever help out their brothers in the caucus or anything...

staghounds said...

I'm still shocked that neither Med nor Putin immediately went to a mosque to apologise, nor has either issued a call to Russians not to hold it against Moslems who have not yet been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Don't they have the script?

Oleg Volk said...

How can one tell black ops from real terrorism?

Tam said...


In regards to current goings-on in the FSU, does it really matter? From where we sit, the outcome's the same.

Unless you think we're willing to risk global thermonuclear war over what might have been a false-flag operation meant to discredit Chechen jihadis...

Sigivald said...

If enough Uighur nationalists make too much trouble for Beijing...

I think the only reason it's not even odds on China doing it first is that the Chechens have been a bigger and far more painful thorn in Moscow's side than the Uighurs have been in Beijing's.

(And on Oleg's point... yeah, it's possible, and I wouldn't put it past Putin, morally, to do such a thing if he thought it useful.

But why would he need to?

Chechen separatists have violently (literally) hated being part of Russia for decades now, and I see no reason to doubt that previous attacks [like the theater hostage taking in 2002] really were performed by a subset of Chechen nationalists.

All together, I see no particular reason to suspect a "false flag" operation, and after dealing with paranoids gibbering about the concept, I refuse to countenance it in general without specific evidence.

Apart from that, my vague understanding of the Russian political situation is that Putin doesn't need an external enemy to distract people. Isn't his power fairly well cemented?)

Anonymous said...

I guess we can take our ball and go home... if this *was* tied to Al-Q, they've just opened up a bag o' hurt. I doubt the Russians are quite as careful about collateral damage as we are. And by 'are quite as careful', I mean 'care at all'.

Justthisguy said...

Cranky, your "students" are obviously a bad influence on you, and messing with your mind. You're supposed to improve their use of English, not let them degrade yours.

Gewehr98 said...

On CNN, just a few minutes ago:

"Chechen rebel leader Dokku Umarov claimed that he personally gave orders to attack the Moscow subway this week, according to a Chechen rebel Web site."

So I suppose at least this time Russia has a legitimate dog (bear?) in the fight?

Clayton Cramer said...

Remember that the purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction--something that will make people in Chechnya regard the terrorists as no worse (and maybe better) than the Russians. To Bush's credit, he didn't turn Afghanistan into a glowing cinder--we started out with food bombing.

Matt said...

I remember reading a story years ago about some Russian diplomats being taken hostage in Beirut during the time that "Take a Foreigner to Lunch" was a popular game for the various militias and terrorist groups in Lebanon.

Supposedly the Russians sent a team into Beirut and grabbed the lead kidnapper's brother. They let him know that they would start sending the brother back a piece at a time until the diplomats were released. I believe they only got as far as a finger when the kidnappers called it quits and released their hostages.

After that no Russians were taken hostage in Beirut again.

I'm just glad we never got into an all out war with these crazy bastards. At this point the Chechens and the Russians almost deserve each other.

(Well thank goodness for Wikipedia, actually found the story on one of their pages )

Rich Rostrom said...

The Bear has beenn stomping on Chechnya for centuries. In the 1990s, the Chechens fought for independence from Russia. They got recognition only after a hostage-taking incident (in which nearly all the civilian deaths resulted from bungled attacks by Russian "SWAT" forces).

Putin's crowd was very unhappy with this. Thus, in 1999, 300 Russians were killed in apartment-building bombings which were blamed on Chechens but were almost certainly staged by Russia's FSB.

Russia then reconquered Chechnya with extreme brutality, killing or displacing at least 1/3 of the population.

In 2002, Chechens staged another hostage incident at a Moscow theater, demanding that Russia cease attacks in Chechnya. It was later determined that the Chechen "suicide bombers" were wearing dummy explosives; the Chechens offered to release all non-Russian hostages, but the Russian authorities refused; and nearly all the civilian deaths came when the Russians flooded the building with toxic knock-out gas (and refused to tell attending doctors what it was).

I do not excuse these Chechen bomb attacks or any others (far from it), but the real responsibility for these actions lies with the Russian government and its unrelenting murderous violence against Chechnya. (And with Arab-funded jihadists, who have exploited the rage and despair of Chechens, and who almost certainly organized these attacks to provoke further Russian reprisals.)

The Chechens would be happy if the Russians just left them alone. (Though I suppose now many have been radicalized or want vengeance.)

BTW, the Al-Qaeda foreign fighters encountered by U.S. Marines in Fallujah included some Chechen exiles. They would not have been there if the Russians hadn't crushed their country and pushed them into alliance with the jihadis. IOW, Russian brutality is a jihadi recruiting tool, providing manpower which the U.S. then has to fight.