January 25th 2002 · Nezavisimaya Gazeta / Vladimir Georgiyev · PRINTER FRIENDLY FORMAT · E-MAIL THIS

Yankees, Go to Chechnya! - Russia has been shown the way it is to be done

The end of the last week and the start of this week were marred by the heavy losses (21) of Russian servicemen in the Northern Caucasus. Seven soldiers from the 102nd brigade of the Interior Troops died as a result of a terrorist act in Makhachkala. Fourteen servicemen were killed in Chechnya on January 14 to 21, according to an official report. This is comparable with the losses during the most active period of fighting in 1999 and 2000. And they are absolutely incomparable with the U.S. losses in Afghanistan during the three months of the special operation against the terrorist organizations and militants of al-Qaida. According to the Pentagon's information, there have been 11 casualties among U.S. servicemen. Of them, only two are considered killed in open combat.

One and the same enemy confronts both Moscow and Washington: field detachments of radical Islamists organized in the manner of regular troops. Meanwhile, one may compare the effectiveness of U.S. combat actions in Afghanistan and those of Russia in Chechnya. In the first place, one and the same enemy confronts both Moscow and Washington: field detachments of radical Islamists organized in the manner of regular troops. They are armed with a considerable amount of Soviet weapons, not only firearms, but also artillery guns and tanks. They also have their own air force and anti-aircraft weapons. They formed a single command and act on similar terrain with mountain areas and foothills, which made special operations against them difficult. Those forces evidently had, and still enjoy, a large amount of financial support, which to some extent explains their ability to survive. They also have mercenaries from Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen and other countries.

Second, a similar method for estimating the enemy force initially predetermined relatively similar tactics for both Moscow and Washington. The first phases of the counter-terrorist operations in Chechnya and Afghanistan were preceded by thorough intelligence and air strikes. The main strategic targets were primarily destroyed. Both countries concentrated a considerable number of troops, combat planes (bombers and fighters), helicopters, airborne troops and marines, and special operations units in the area for conducting the operation. They widely used, and are using increasingly today, local forces that are hostile towards the terrorists, which to a certain extent ensured effective organizing and conducting combat operations on the ground. In Afghanistan, this was the Northern Alliance; in Chechnya, there were field commanders and volunteer corps in opposition to Aslan Maskhadov and supported by Moscow, not to mention the local police, religious leaders, politicians and others.

Third, the results of the first active phase of the counter- revolutionary operations appeared to be similar for Moscow and Washington: the main bases of the militants were destroyed and the majority of the terrorists were liquidated or dispersed.

Every Russian soldier is exposed to a greater danger of being killed or wounded than U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan. Human life has always been of little value in Russia. But here the operations' similarities end. The goals like those set by Russians in Chechnya were achieved by the U.S. in the war against the Taliban during slightly more than three months, while Moscow has been trying to get out of this situation for over four years now. And there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In the struggle against the militants, the U.S. and Russia employed different tactics in the main phase of the operation. The Americans bribed the main Taliban forces and relied on the Northern Alliance supported by Iran, Tajikistan and Russia. At the same time, the U.S. did not begin active ground combat.

Now the Americans, relying on the UN and the international community, have organized extensive humanitarian and financial aid to restore Afghanistan's economy. It is not so much the amount the industrialized countries of the world promised to give Kabul at the international conference in Tokyo that are so impressive. Rather, it is the fact that the Pentagon spent up to 2 billion dollars a month on combat operations. This sum equals almost a quarter of Russia's 2002 military budget. So, far smaller funds are being spent on Chechnya than on Afghanistan. This once again confirms the conclusion made by Russian human rights activists that Moscow is defending it sovereignty in Chechnya at the cost of the lives of its servicemen. If we look at the defense budget, the spending on new types of arms to be delivered to the area have barely been increased. Moscow treats the refugees in the same way. If subsidies had been paid to every Chechen family for restoring ruined houses, there would have been no Chechen refugees in Ingushetia.

According to incomprehensible assessments made by the federal command, peaceful life is being restored in Chechnya and the number of active militants has been reduced to 300. And these 300 militants killed 21 servicemen in only seven days? According to various sources, there are up to 7,000 terrorists in Afghanistan, and the Americans took 3,230 active Taliban militants prisoner with the help of the Northern Alliance. But the casualties among the Americans are incommensurably smaller than Russia's. So, what really is going on in Chechnya?

Perhaps Russia's biggest mistake in Chechnya is that, by bringing back federal power to the republic, it is not so much "winning over" the population's with economic aid, the way it is being done by the U.S., than by Russian servicemen being present in every village. So, every Russian soldier is exposed to a greater danger of being killed or wounded than U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan. Human life has always been of little value in Russia.


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