November 29th 2008 · Prague Watchdog / Sergei Gligashvili · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS · ALSO AVAILABLE IN: RUSSIAN 

The war is lost, gentlemen!

The war is lost, gentlemen!

By Sergei Gligashvili, special to Prague Watchdog

Let us imagine that an armed group which carries out attacks on representatives of the authorities – the police, the special services, government officials – has been active in one of Moscow's district for many a long year. Huge forces have been drafted into the district to deal with the armed group, the local population is under constant and severe pressure, any person suspected of contacts with the guerrillas immediately forfeits all right to protection, is abducted, tortured and ultimately killed.

A significant number of local residents (some because they are forced to, others out of good will) become informers. They report to the special services on their neighbours’ identities and movements, on their meetings with others, on what groceries they buy at the supermarket – any information which officers of the FSB may find useful in order to identify and eliminate the illegal armed network.

Each year the authorities throw more forces into the fight with the underground, but nothing – neither the intensifying of repressive measures, nor the deployment of a whole army of undercover agents, nor the harassment of relatives and sympathizers – brings the desired result. The group continues to operate, maintaining its ability to act with the same numbers and frequency of attacks it has always had.

What is the point of such an analogy? To show the elementary nature of the conflict in the North Caucasus. There is more than enough evidence for it to be obvious that the Chechen (or, by now, pan-Caucasus) underground is winning against the official authorities. It does not take much effort to perceive that not only is the war which has continued for nearly ten years still ongoing – it has become part of the Great Caucasus War, great both in the volume of forces engaged on the federal side, and simply in length.

If the strategy employed includes torture, extra-judicial killings, the mass repression of all who show the slightest degree of dissent, and the result is zero, with no reduction in the number of attacks and casualties, that can mean only one thing – the authorities are seriously losing the battle, beyond the point of hope.

To become a mujahideen fighter in Chechnya today is an extremely difficult choice to make. One’s relatives come under attack. The authorities have at their disposal a large number of ways to punish them, ranging from their abduction as hostages to the destruction of their homes. For any Chechen, to be the cause of a relative’s misfortune is a heavy burden. And if in spite of this a man takes up armed struggle, it means that he can contemplate no other kind of life.

The current crisis has shown that the basis of the Putin regime’s stability – high energy prices – can only temporarily conserve the political process and give the authorities an opportunity to dismantle the institutions of civil society, restrict freedom and introduce authoritarian government by exploiting the wave of euphoria induced by rising wages and a noticeable improvement in living standards.

It is quite possible the Kremlin will very soon encounter the frustration that is felt by the people of the province. The dictatorship of Ramzan Kadyrov, maintained by feudal law, is a system thoroughly lacking in organic roots. It does not even form a part of the threadbare authoritarianism of the Putin type, and is being developed according to the precepts of oriental despotism. In other words, its existence is safeguarded solely by means of violence.

The federal authorities will only be able to maintain the status quo in the North Caucasus if they are prepared to develop the repressive apparatus even further and grant an increasing amount of power to Ramzan Kadyrov.

If the pressure were to be reduced even for a moment, the effects would be felt immediately. The underground, which knows how to survive under the heel of a wealthy state with no lack of funds or human reserves, will find a way of making holes in the fragile system of defence that surrounds Kadyrov’s ramshackle and resource-starved dictatorship. How that will happen is another issue, but it looks as though the recent attacks – one on a major military convoy in Ingushetia and another on the market in Vladikavkaz – may give a good idea of the guerrillas’ strategy and tactics for the foreseeable future.

The photograph is borrowed from the website

(Translation by DM)


 · Kadyrov has saved more than he killed (interview with Yulia Latynina) (PW, 2.11.2008)
 · A Green International in the North Caucasus mountains (PW, 27.10.2008)
 · An empire on the verge of collapse (PW, 27.8.2008)



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