#14 - JRL 7207
June 2, 2003
BEHIND THE FRONT LINES
AMIDST ANOTHER WAVE OF VIOLENCE, WHAT OPTIONS DO CHECHENS HAVE
Author: Alexander Khramchikhin
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
ANOTHER WAVE OF VIOLENCE HIT CHECHNYA, CREATING THE IMPRESSION OF HOPELESSNESS AND ENDLESSNESS OF THE SITUATION. THE WAR IS UNBELIEVABLY DIFFICULT, BUT WHAT OTHER OPTION DO WE HAVE?
I'm surprised to hear the demands to finish the war. This is something that is demanded from Moscow. An end to the war should be put by the side that initiated it in the first place. Separatists, in this case.
I'm surprised as well by advocates of the idea to "leave these Chechens alone" who claim that this is how our Russian boys will stop dying. The impression is that advocates of the idea did not live in Russia in the so called period of peace stretching from the Khasavyurt capitulation and Basayev's raid to Dagestan. It was the period when separatists were "left alone", when they were free to take hostages first in the Caucasus and then throughout Russia, decapitating them in front of cameras, etc. The Dagestani raid became the only possible finale of this "free life". Is there anybody who doubts that "left alone", the Chechens will not revert to all of that again?
Fencing Chechnya off is pointless what with the terrain to be dealt with, and a mere blockade of communications will lead to even heavier losses among servicemen and noncombatants. In short, the option of retaining Chechnya is safer and better than the option of letting it go.
Advocates of "letting them go" have an argument, however, they believe irrefutable. They say that it is impossible to subjugate guerrillas. The phrase itself is a testimony of absolute incompetence of the men who use it. It is separatists who are (or used to be) guerrillas, not the federal forces. The difference is crucial. It follows that separatists are doomed.
Guerrilla warfare is of course effective, but its success is not guaranteed even with the locals' support and financial assistance from abroad. Triumph in guerrilla warfare is not guaranteed. Both Chechen wars confirm it. The federal forces began the first Chechen campaign in a nearly catastrophic position but the enemy was all but destroyed by the middle of 1995. The first campaign was a play at give-away on the part of the federal army, that is why it could not but be lost. Like the Yankee in Vietnam, we were defeated by our own men, not by guerrillas.
The "voluntary" defeat demoralized the army and the population and enabled separatists to live the way they wanted to. They were defeated in Dagestan only because of the fight put up by the locals. Separatist leaders were surprised but even that did not shake their conviction of the ability to defend their own territory expecting the federal troops to be stunned by murderous losses again. From this point of view, explosions in Russian cities were a strong and correct move on their part. As a matter of fact, they generated the feeling polar to those Chechen chieftains relied on but they were slow to recognize the fact. Moreover, they relied - and not groundlessly - on assistance from the West.
Separatist forces began the second Chechen war the way a regular army would have done, fighting to retain the territory they considered theirs and settlements. It was a gross mistake because the federal forces had an advantage in manpower, fire power, and controlled the sky. Guerrilla warfare on federal convoys and bases did not last long. As a matter of fact, it lasted only several months and ended in the fall 2000. That was all the enemy could come up with. Figures of the Russian losses confirm the assumption. In the first year of the war the federal forces lost more men than in the 2.5 years that followed.
Separatist ringleaders have waged a guerrilla war ever since, the type of warfare that does not require a lot in terms of manpower. Moreover, separatists mostly concentrated on actions against their own kind, against the Chechens supporting the federal center. Kamikaze tactic is being widely used now. It may be added that murder of their own kind or suicides are not typical of the Chechens.
On the one hand, the conflict is a civil war in Chechnya itself. On the other, it is a war aimed to repel an aggression staged by the external forces usually qualified as "international terrorism". This nuance renders any negotiations with formal separatist leaders absolutely pointless. They are not their own masters anymore. They cannot make peace even if they have the mind to do so.
Money made by both warring sides is another factor that extends the war. The situation is surreal indeed - the criminals attack the federal forces with the weapons bought from the army while the federal forces fuel their vehicles with the gas bought from the criminals. The federal center is forced to invest huge sums in post-war restoration of Chechnya (it cannot do anything about it since Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation and Chechens are its citizens) which leads to their mass embezzlement. Some sums inevitably end up in the hands of the criminals. We should remember that rooting it out is impossible even though a struggle against it is a must.
Defeated in both regular and guerrilla wars, the enemy may hold on to the terrorist and informational wars now. Human and financial resources for that are unlimited because they originate abroad. It is impossible to defeat a country in such a manner (even a country weaker than Russia), but the endlessness itself has its effect on public opinion. Losses of the federal forces in Chechnya are under the losses sustained from cruelty in the barracks beyond Chechnya, traffic accidents, catastrophes, and careless weapons handling, but psychological effects differ greatly. Particularly since the media is not exactly helpful. Everything boils down to psychology again.
Paradoxically, this war in Chechnya is more just for the Russians that the war in Iraq for the Americans. And yet, the Russian media stopped depicting a romantic image of the criminals but never stopped trying to explain to Russian servicemen that they are committed to battle for some unjust goals or "for somebody's capitals." Demoralizing the army, it only leads to new and new casualties. The goals are anything but unjust, the country needs triumph in the war. Particularly since the Dudayev's and Maskhadov's regime cannot be allowed to exist.
On the other hand, appeals to journalists' common sense and patriotic feelings is clearly pointless. If the federal center sets out to accomplish it, however, it will not result in anything good.
That is why we should continue to hunt down and exterminate the enemy in Chechnya and try to bring the war to the enemy's own territory.
We all know where leaders of "independent Ichkeria" reside, where ideological, financial, and recruiting centers are located (Mideast, Commonwealth, and Europe). We need a situation where anything related to the war for "freedom of Ichkeria" will ensure death, anywhere and anytime. Capture and deportation to Russia of some chieftains and documents will not hurt either. The situation for the enemy should be made intolerable in Chechnya and beyond it. That is what will break the enemy down psychologically. His defeat will be a matter of time then.
(Translated by A. Ignatkin)