The Happy Arab News Service

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Недолго продолжался бой . . .

Last updated: September 25, 2008

September 20, 2008

The wars of Russian empire in the Caucasus are amply reflected in Russian classics. Many Russia's greatest writers belonged to the landowning class that provided the bulk of officers for the czar's army. That's why some of them had a first hand experience of those wars. Russians always had a sort of love hate relationship with the Caucasus. Without doubt, many of them were fascinated by the fierce militancy and independent spirit of tribal warriors. Unlike British, Russians did not classify people they encountered during their imperial expansion into warrior races, but the British would have put into this category the majority of tribes of the region.

Leo Tolstoy left us some chilling accounts of the last war and its aftermath when hundreds of thousands of Circassians were expelled from the mountains. A small number agreed to resettle in Southern Russia. The majority preferred to board ships destined for Turkey. Numerous Circassian communities scattered across the Middle East are a lingering remainder of the mass exodus of the mountaineers.

The comparative analysis if national mindsets of the Ossetians and other Caucasian groups by a character in "A Hero of Our Time" by another great Russian poet and writer Michail Lermontov is still haunting Ossetians on just about every single Russian speaking forum and thread on the web. Of course it's absolutely not politically correct, but hardcore racists (such as the author of this blog :D ) can't fail to be impressed by the similarity of these observations to the current situation.

The Chechens fought three wars with Russia over the last two decades in one of which they succeeded to defeat and expel Russian army. Later their recklessness led them into the third war with Russia which ended in a complete destruction of Chechen resistance but for a while it looked as if Russians had got enough of this tiny people and had no more nerve to mess with them. Say what you say about Lermontov, call him racist, but think about Ossetian provocations against Georgia followed by them immediately calling on Russian army to come and save them, and you can't say that the following quotes from Lermontov don't ring.

Behind my cart, a team of four oxen was pulling another with the greatest ease, despite the fact that it was piled high, to the very top. This circumstance amazed me. Walking behind the cart was its owner, who was smoking a small Kabardian pipe set in silver. He was wearing an officer's overcoat without epaulets and a shaggy Circassian hat. He seemed to be about fifty; his swarthy complexion showed that he was long familiar with the Caucasian sun, and his prematurely gray whiskers were not in keeping with his firm step and robust countenance. I walked over to him and bowed in greeting; he returned my bow without speaking and released a huge puff of smoke.

"You and I are fellow travelers, it seems."

He again bowed, without speaking.

"You must be on your way to Stavropol."

"Exactly so...with government property."

"Tell me, please, why is it that four oxen are pulling your heavy cart easily, while six beasts can scarcely budge my empty one, even with the help of these Ossetians?"

He smiled slyly and gave me a significant look.

"You doubtless have not been in the Caucasus long."

"About a year," I replied.

He smiled a second time.

"But what is the matter?"

"What's the matter! Horrible brutes, these Asiatics! You think they're helping by shouting? The devil only knows what they're shouting! The oxen understand them; you could harness up a score of them and still, if they shouted in their way, the oxen would never budge. Horrible swindlers! But what can you expect from them?... They enjoy fleecing the travelers who pass through. The rogues have been spoiled! You'll see, they're going to get a tip from you as well. Oh, I know them, they can't fool me."

"Have you served here long?"

"Yes, I served here under Alexei Petrovich," [Ermolov] he replied, assuming a dignified air. "When he arrived at the frontier, I was a second lieutenant," he added, "and under him I received two promotions for actions against the mountaineers."

"And now you are...?"

"Now I'm counted with the Third Frontier Battalion. And you, may I be so bold as to ask?"

I told him.

At this the conversation ended, and we continued to walk in silence, side by side. At the mountain's summit we found snow. The sun set and night followed day without interval, as usually happens in the South; however, thanks to the reflection off the snow, we could easily distinguish the road, which was still going uphill, although no longer as steeply. I ordered my valise placed on the cart and the oxen exchanged for horses, and for the last time I looked back down on the valley--but a thick mist, which surged in waves from the gorges, had covered it completely, and not a single sound reached our hearing from there. The Ossetians had gathered volubly around me and were demanding tips; but the staff captain shouted at them so menacingly that they scattered instantly.

"You see, what a nation," he said. "They can't say 'bread' in Russian, but they've learned 'Officer, give me a tip!' To my mind, the Tatars are better than this; at least they don't drink."

. . .

. . .

"A pathetic lot!" I said to the captain, indicating our filthy hosts, who were looking at us silently, in a kind of stupor.

"A very stupid nation," he replied. "Would you believe it? They don't know how to do anything, they're incapable of any kind of education! At least our Kabardians or Chechens, brigands though they are, and paupers, are daring devils, whereas these haven't even a mind for weaponry. You won't see a proper dagger on a one of them. Ossetians for certain!"

"And were you in Chechnya very long?"

"Yes, I was stationed ten years at a fort there with my company, near Stone Ford. Do you know it?"

"I've heard tell."

"You know, friend, we got good and tired of these cutthroats; nowadays, thank heavens, it's quieted down, but it used to be, you'd go a hundred paces beyond the rampart, and some raggedy devil would be sitting somewhere keeping watch: a moment's heedlessness and watch out--it's either a lasso around your neck or a bullet in the back of the head. Brave lads they are!"

"A Hero of Our Time" was not the only masterpiece produced by Lermontov. In his great poem "The Demon" he has two lines that in my view are the shortest and the most accurate description of the last war. Written hundreds years ago, they seem so relevant to the recent events that I am surprised they were not quoted all over the net.

Вдруг впереди мелькнули двое,
И больше - выстрел! - что такое?..
Привстав на звонких стременах,
Надвинув на брови папах,
Отважный князь не молвил слова;
В руке сверкнул турецкий ствол,
Нагайка щелк! и, как орел,
Он кинулся... и выстрел снова!
И дикий крик и стон глухой
Промчались в глубине долины -
Недолго продолжался бой:
Бежали робкие грузины!

And translated:

Two figures - then a shot - ahead
What was it? Rising in his stirrups
Cramming his high hat on his brow
The gallant lover, at the gallop,
Plunged like a hawk upon his foe!
No word he spoke, his whip cracked once
And once blazed forth his Turkish gun....
Another shot. Wild cries. The Prince
Goes thundering on. The groans behind
Long echoes in the valley find....
Not long the fight. Of timorous mind,
The Georgians turn and run!

And to get even closer close to the original

The fight did not go on for long:
The timid Georgians ran away!

Some military analysts have been wondering recently about how the poorly equipped and disorganized Russian forces, that entered Georgia on tanks dating from 60s while coordinating their actions via cellular phones, could defeat in such a short time the Western trained Georgian army. They should read Russian classics.

September 21, 2008

To Get the Bear

On Nizo's suggestion I am attaching to this post an illustration that takes a view at the situation from a somewhat more philosophical perspective. Readers versed in Buddhist teachings will detect in it the familiar themes of impermanence and selflessness of existence, the general instability of life. When the mind of meditator, sharpened by many years of intensive practice, finally penetrates the essence of all phenomena, the shapes and forms dissolve in front of his eyes and he's seeing only one uninterrupted and ever changing flow of life.

There is really nothing here that the human mind, that restless and greedy for all things new and cool monkey, can really grab on. Youth, beauty, your intellect... They will all be soon subject to decay and degradation. Cells inside your body die and are born again, but tissues and hard structure are all in the process of gradual aging and disintegration.

In the good old days when committed Yogis could engage freely in observing the process of decomposition of dead bodies left lying by the side of a road or a cemetery, the fact of impermanence would have quickly impress itself on and penetrate their mind. There is no abiding self here, all phenomena are inherently empty of real substance. Great emptiness, the foundation of all existence, fills the Yogi's mind and Nirvana, the unborn, is realized.

The modern mind, shaped by the culture of mass consumerism and unbridled materialism, will fail to find anything in this vision that's not abhorrent. But it's not for nothing that ancient sages were cultivating these attitudes so assiduously. In the words of the great DhammaPada:

Just as the great ocean has but one taste,
the taste of salt,
so too this teaching [of Buddha] has but one taste,
the taste of freedom. Ud.56

It's the freedom from things and possessions, both material and immaterial, that paves the way towards final liberation. Modern mind will refuse to accept that through the process of dispossessing itself of everything its owner was so busy accumulating throughout his life, liberation can be achieved. There is nothing here beyond what I can put my hands on, reasons it.

But the eternal wisdom of Buddha teachings says: Embrace the impermanence, embrace the instability and you will see worlds beyond the deceptive appearance of things. Your life, your body, people around you, a flower under your feet, they will all go one day the way of mortal flesh because none of them belongs to you. Nothing in this world belongs to man.

Don't grab on, don't try to fix the life process. You will never succeed. Some days you are rich, some days you are dead poor. Some days you feel wonderful, some days you are sick and so it goes on until you die. There is no permanence here. Today's beggars are tomorrow's kings. Today's kings are tomorrow's beggars. Today you are a live man. Tomorrow you are bones rotting in the ground consumed by worms. Some days it's you who gets the bear and some days, you know... it's just the other way round...

September 24, 2008

Everybody, please help Georgia !!!

Having considered the conflict from various perspectives, starting with Russian classics and ending with Buddha and DhammaPada, it should be the most appropriate to say a few words about its military and other more earthly aspects too. In particular, the surprise regarding the swift defeat of the Georgian army should be mentioned as especially misplaced. The fact that the Georgian army has been trained by the US and Israeli instructors does not make the outcome any more surprising but actually much less. Of course, the problem is that the US fights its wars from a very different position of overwhelming air superiority and firepower. This fact has probably not escaped American instructors in Georgia and the deep involvement of Israel in the training and equipping of the Georgian forces may be partly a result of reasoning that Georgia has by far more to learn from Israel than from the US due to the similarity of their situations. After all, both are tiny countries surrounded from three sides by a huge and vastly more populous enemy states.

Such a reasoning can make sense for some people, but in fact Israel's military experience is hardly more relevant for Georgia than that of the US. To start with, it may be true that Israel was often outnumbered and outgunned by its enemies, but it has never happened on the scale of Georgia vs Russia. Another thing is that the IDF was mostly fighting as a conventional army that relied heavily on its armor to smash through enemy lines. Air superiority and speed have been hallmarks of this strategy based on preventive strikes and lightening attacks, but the point here was again about a small and efficient conventional army fighting big and poorly organized and coordinated Arab conventional forces.

Georgia can only dream about achieving air superiority over Russia and there is nothing Georgia can achieve by emulating Israeli method of lightening blitzkriegs across the border. Some Arab capitals are within a few hours drive from the border with Israel, but Russia is a huge country and for Georgians to get to the nearest significant base of Russian army may require up to a few days of driving through Russian controlled territory with no air cover. The Israelis may teach the Georgians how to be fast and mobile and even advise them to put their artillery on wheels to get some extra mobility, but even with these tactics the Georgians can just as well try to punch the skies with their hands. To unleash surprise attacks deep into the huge vastness of Russia makes no more sense, Russia is simply too big.

It may be possible for the Georgians to outmaneuver invading Russian forces inside Georgia, but given Russian control of the skies even this option is probably not very real and the element of surprise will be largely lost if the Georgians are just to wait for Russians to come. Anyway, Israelis themselves are not fond of fighting on such a rigged terrain and would always prefer a more normal landscape. The wars in Lebanon helped little to change the army's attitudes on this and so there is very little the IDF can actually teach the Georgians in this respect. Never mind the impression created by the last war that the IDF has lost quite a few teeth over years and it's not clear whether it's still capable of reproducing the feats that made it famous in the past. In short, one of the mistakes committed by the Georgians is that they have chosen very wrong teachers to learn from. And, as it seems, they are still persisting in this folly.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who shortly after the war was making laugh of the Georgians and their Israeli instructors, has by far more sense than many people dare to admit. Regardless if the claim that Russian soldiers are seen so often seating on the armor of their APCs because they are scared of getting trapped inside burning vehicles is true, it's plain obvious that a properly trained Georgian force equipped with good anti tank missiles could have wrecked total havoc with the antiquated armor the Russians rolled into Georgia on the first days of the war. The geographical conditions of Georgia are actually quite similar to South Lebanon and probably digging a few tunnels in the mountains could be helpful too. Instead, when Russian air planes attacked the two and a half military bases the Georgians kept in Gori and elsewhere, the troops had to disperse and the logistics and supply side of the Georgian military was utterly disrupted. In short, there are some lessons to be learned here, but given that nobody is going to do it they are not really relevant.

Anyway, if anything, the Georgians should have better taken a good look at Hezbollah's tactics during the last war and in particular the ballistic type of guerrilla warfare the group was perfecting over the last years. During the last war in Lebanon, anti tank rockets manufactured by the same Russians have turned in the hands of Hezbollah into surprisingly effective and versatile weapons. Most Israeli casualties were caused by these rockets and not by bullets and other arms. Fired from a distance of a few hundreds meters to a few kilometers, they are just as effective against infantry as they are against tanks and they allow personnel operating them enough time and distance to have a good chance to get away undetected. The helicopter Israel lost in the last days of the war has been reportedly also hit by one of these missiles.

The fact of the matter is that for Georgia to resist Russia does not make much sense in any situation, and this has been pointed out to Saakashvili by his US advisers. The US military experts were skeptical not only about Georgia's ability to beat Russian forces back, but, and even more, about its ability to hold the ground against a protracted aerial assault. Of course, as any true Caucasians, the Georgians just love this aggressive warlike rhetoric which is very common in the region, but their another, and maybe even bigger, mistake was precisely this - confusing themselves with the Chechens. The Chechens may not mind to have their whole country bombed to pieces when they get serious about fighting a war, but Georgians, these Latinos of the Caucasus, used to enjoy their excellent climate, sea, tasty food and famous wine, are nothing like this.

But the real irony of the current situation is that the Georgians may actually end owing more to Russian imperialism than they can imagine. Georgia has advanced tremendously since the days of Gamsakhurdia when "Georgia for Georgians" used to decorate streets in Tbilisi and be chanted during demonstrations. The same Saakashvili has been working very hard to propel his country forward economically and he was largely successful, but absolutely nothing seemed to be able to move the Georgians even one inch from their stone age nationalism, even though admittedly it's a part of the wider regional mentality and shared by all Georgia's neighbors as well. Surgical intervention was urgently needed to cut Georgia from her illusions and the Russians have inadvertently provided Georgia with just this. With the territorial integrity of Georgia gone up in flames, the Georgians have at last no more excuses and will have to concentrate on modernizing their country instead of dreaming about fighting hopeless wars. Anyway, the Georgians don't even fight them so much as they are dreaming about doing this one day.

September 25, 2008

The enemy of an enemy of my enemy's enemy's enemy

Ruslan Yamadayev, a former Russian Duma deputy from Putin's United Russia, was gunned down in Moscow near the White House. Another man who traveled with Yamadayev and was seriously wounded was identified as former Russian military commander for Chechnya. The attacker approached Yamadayev's Mercedes S500 when that stopped for a red light and shot both men at point-blank range.

Like the current president of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, Yamadaev hailed from a powerful Chechen clan that fought Russians during the first Chechen war. The short lived Chechen de facto independence put the clan at war with other Chechen groups and Arab volunteers who came to Chechnya to join the Jihad in the Caucasus. Both clans were later instrumental in Russian reconquista of Chechnya when they secured for Russian forces the second largest Chechen city Gudermes to be taken over without a fight. Yamadayev's brother, Sulim, has later become commander of Battalion Vostok, a special unit of Russian army packed with former Chechen rebels, that became famous for its savagery and ferocity.

The widely circulated in the media story goes that the growing tensions between the two clans have exploded a few months ago when a Vostok's convoy came face to face with the presidential motorcade near Grozny and refused to clear the road. The standoff between the two forces quickly turned violent and in a shootout that followed several Kadirov's bodyguards were shot dead. Sulim Yamadaev was removed from position of Vostok's commander but he reappeared later in South Ossetia in command of the same Vostok that joined the invading Russian forces.

The story is remarkable because of its being so reminiscent of the wars in Abkhazia years ago when the Chechens were providing the bulk of Caucasian volunteers that helped the local separatists, supplied and encouraged by Russians, to defeat Georgian forces and expel Georgian population from the region (that accounted at the time for about 50% of the population of Abkhazia). In a bizarre twist of fate the most famous and hated in Russia Chechen commander Shamil Basayev started his insurgent career as commander of Caucasian volunteers in Abkhazia. A while later his force of hardened veterans of the war was already laying ambushes to Russians all over Chechnya.

It's highly ironic that the famous clip of a Russian tank column being decimated in Chechnya near Shatoy should start with narrating the story of the Basayev's battalion that came to be known as the Abkhazian battalion. The Shatoy ambush, in which dozens of Russian tanks and military vehicles have been wiped out by Arab volunteers, has become an iconic symbol of the first Chechen war.

In fact, even the background of Shatoy clip contains another testimony to the unstable world of Caucasian alliances as the rebel commander who staged the ambush, Jordanian-born Khattab, has met and made friends with the same Basayev during the war in Nagornii Karabakh where both were fighting on the side of Azeris. In that war the Armenians, who unlike the Georgians have reputation of tough fighters, kicked the asses of both Azeris and their foreign and Caucasian allies. But in Abkhazia the local Armenian community joined forces with Chechens and Abkhazians and their invisible Russian allies against the Georgians.

Youtube has a clip with Basayev speaking about the war in Abkhazia and in particular the battle of Gagra.

The, admittedly, most daring of all rebel leaders, Basayev later led a Chechen expedition into neighboring Dagestan where the Chechens hoped to start a popular uprising against Russian rule. He was also reportedly involved in planning a series of bombings of apartment blocks across Russia in which hundreds of Russians died and which prompted Putin's famous address to Russian nation in which he promised to kill the rebels one by one everywhere including their toilets. Putin made good on his promise and all rebel leaders are now dead with some having been hunted down as far from Chechnya as Qatar. Basayev had massively outlived all his colleagues but eventually the Russians got him too, though not before he had sent his people to storm that school in Beslan.

The parallels between Abkhazia and South Ossetia are obvious and don't require explanations and, if indeed, history is going in circles, then we have a good chance to hear more news from the Yamadayev clan at some point in the future. Of course, right now Russia seems to be only tightening its grip on the Caucasus. But the Caucasus is a wild place and strengthening one's grip on it is rather similar to winding up a tight spring. The day the Russians fail to keep their grip tight enough, they will discover that history is indeed proceeding in circles.

Shatoy, 1996

October 8, 2008


No account of the mess Russia is currently creating in the Caucasus can be complete without Ingushetia where an opposition leader died in circumstances that are anything but clear. The death of Magomed Yevloyev has triggered a chain of events that culminated in an attack on the motorcade of Minister of Internal Affairs Musa Medov. It all started when Yevloyev, who was running Ingushetia's main opposition site registered in the US, had decided to pay a visit to the homeland. What made him take such a reckless step is not clear, but it's claimed that he came packed with hundreds of thousands of dollars and with a draft of declaration of Ingushetia's independence. In a bizarre twist of fate, he found himself traveling in the same plane with Ingushetia's president, Murat Zyazikov, appointed by Putin a few years ago instead of the locally elected Ruslan Alushev, who was deemed too soft and compromising in his dealing with opposition and Islamic radicals who based themselves in the republic. A former KGB general, Zyazikov has succeeded in a very short time to radicalize the republic so much that attacks on police outposts and military convoys have turned into almost daily routine.

It's not known whether any interaction between the two men, whose relationships are characterized by implacable hostility, happened on the plane, but Yevloyev was certainly aware that he was sharing the plane with his arch rival, given that he reportedly sent an SMS to his family about this. However, upon the arrival Yevloyev had barely made a few steps inside the airport, when he was arrested, pushed into a police car and driven away. When Yevloyev's family members, who came to the airport to meet him, have realized what happened they opened in pursuit.

They got the police convoy somewhere on the road to Nazran, Ingushetia's capital, and having dragged the officers out of their cars, they then proceeded to beat their very lives out of them. However, either this was another police convoy or for some other reason, Yevloyev was not there. It's at this point, according to clan members, that some police officers were begging for their lives saying that their hands are clean from Yamadayev's blood, hours before the man was officially reported dead. Yamadayev's body later found shot in the head, the official version is that Yevloyev was shot by mistake and unintentionally while Yevloyev's clan claimed that he was shot immediately after he had been dragged into the police car.

The events then followed the regular Caucasian script with Yevloyev's father declaring blood feud on both president Zyazikov and interior minister Medov. Zyazikov's home was attacked with grenade launchers, though Yevloyev's widow denied clan's responsibility for the death of Zyazikov's cousin who was shot dead a few days later. However, what was not the regular Caucasian routine of blood feuding is a suicide bomber who tried to ram a car packed with explosives into the motorcade of Medov a few days ago. The car went off prematurely and Medov had survived the attack intact, however suicide attacks are still not a regular part of the simmering insurgency unfolding in this tiny Caucasian republic which is Russia's poorest region and has the highest birth rate in the Russian federation.

This escalation have left some analysts wondering if another Chechnya, though on a smaller scale, is about to erupt in the Caucasus and what effect this may have on other parts of the Caucasus, in particular North Ossetia, with which Ingushetia has what can be defined as a mega blood feud. A Reuters correspondent was pondering this scenario recently.

NAZRAN, Russia, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Russia thought it had tamed the Muslim regions on its southern flank when it quelled a rebellion in Chechnya, but trouble is brewing again.

Barely noticed by the outside world, increasing violence and clashes between federal forces and rebels in Ingushetia, just west of Chechnya, threaten to destabilise the north Caucasus."

Ninety-three people were killed in clashes in the year to the end of August, the local branch of human rights group Memorial says -- a big death toll for a region with a population of only 470,000.

. . .

It is more than a local problem. As with two rounds of conflict in Chechnya, which killed tens of thousands of people from 1994 and spilled over to neighbouring regions, the clashes in Ingushetia could spread to other parts of the North Caucasus.

They could also re-ignite an ethnic conflict with the neighbouring Christian region of North Ossetia in which more than 500 people were killed in 1992.

. . .


Ingushetia, that until very recently has been quietly seating out the wars in Chechnia and elsewhere in the Caucasus in a remarkable demonstration of loyalty to Russia, has been steadily sliding into insurgency ever since Zyazikov's appointment, but the situation took a marked turn for the worse in the wake of the war in Georgia. Russia's support for independence of South Ossetia, Ingushetia's enemy, seems to have finally tipped the balance in a decisive way. The core of the dispute between the Ingush and Ossetians is about territories taken over by the Ossetians during the Ingush absence from the region following their mass deportation by Stalin during the second world war. When finally allowed to come back, the Ingush, who returned in hugely reduced numbers (some claim that two thirds of them died during the deportation and later in exile), found their homes and much of their territory resettled by their Christian neighbors. Attempts at resolving the dispute by peaceful means failed and an armed conflict erupted in 1992 during which the Ingush had to undergo another ethnic cleansing with thousands of them having been expelled from the disputed region.

The relative docility of the Ingush under their previous president may have to do a lot with a certain expectation of a reward for their good behavior in the form of the Russians moving in to redress historical injustices at the expense of the Ossetians. However no reward has ever come and docility does not appear to be a natural part of the Ingush national character. In fact, during the Russian conquest of the Caucasus the Russians have singled out them together with the Chechens as standing out by the virtue of their warlike nature even in this region teeming with martial races. That the Ingush patience was running thin for quite a while is indirectly confirmed by the fact that most members of the group sent by Basayev to storm the school in Beslan (the school itself is in North Ossetia) were Ingush and by the steadily increasing rate of attacks on Russian servicemen and just ethnic Russians inside Ingushetia itself. Russian recognition of South Ossetia's independence may well be the last straw that breaks the camel's back. Unsurprisingly, the Ingush are not exactly alone in their reviling of the Ossetians, as the recent wars of Russia in the Caucasus have been steadily giving shape to a new alliance in the region.

This one should be counted together with a massive rapprochement between the Georgians and Chechens that started shortly after the first Chechen war when Chechen president came to Georgia and apologized for the Chechen part in the Abkhazian war that ended in dozens of thousands of ethnic Georgians having been driven out of Abkhazia. Incensed by the Abkhazians failure to reciprocate by showing up during the first Russian Chechen war, a serious rethink happened in Chechnya about its alliances. Famous for their militancy, the Chechens have never been equally famous for being idiots and the fact that in Abkhazia they have been skillfully exploited by the locals to serve the imperialist agenda of the hated Russian enemy haven't escaped their attention. In 2001 Hamzat Gelayev, one of the best known Chechen warlords who together with Basayev fought on the Abkhazian side in 1992, led a force of hundreds of Chechens and Georgians across the border to storm the Kodori gorge, though they were beaten back by the Russians and Abkhazians.

The incoming uprising in Ingushetia will probably be crashed and quickly because there is simply not enough Ingush to keep this uprising going on for long. The Chechens seem to be (temporarily) exhausted and with no energy left to send enough volunteers to sustain the uprising. The same goes about Georgia that's still in the state of shock and despair after the last war. Nevertheless, in any case this uprising will serve one more valuable lesson to the next generation of separatists. It's basically the same old lesson about the impossibility of winning independence from Russia in one single country and the need for a coordinated action across several republics at once. Apart from learning this lesson, the future generations of Caucasian separatists will have much less difficulty in determining who should fight who, as the Ossetians and the badly depopulated Abkhazia are set to be swallowed by Russia in the near future or at least to become Russia's satellites totally dependent on Moscow to survive economically and defend their territory against the Georgians and Ingush. The front lines of the future conflicts are already well established.

In many ways the Caucasus is the Russian version of Lebanon and the legacy Putin leaves to the next generations of Russians in the region may soon reveal itself as toxic to the extreme. The strong side of Putin's policies is based on the determination with with Russia is rebuilding its military muscle and using it inside its borders. Their weakness is that any achievements created by such policies may quickly unravel the very moment Russia finds itself either lacking in military power or determination to put it to good use. In this sense the Russians should better bear in mind that Russia may not get another Putin to replace the current one when he dies or becomes disabled by the old age and by that time Russia may find itself vastly debilitated by the seemingly unstoppable process of the rapid shrinking and aging of its population. But the Caucasus, with its centuries old traditions of banditry, mafias and kidnappings, now supplemented by regular Islamic radicalism and terrorism, is not a region that allows easy disengagements, once one gets in.

The Russians should do something really smart and fast before the situation in Ingushetia too gets out of control. Removing Zyazikov or letting the Ingush get him may go some way in reducing the tension. The Russians may also try to build something in Ingushetia just as they did in Chechnya where large scale reconstruction projects are credited by some with the relative calm of the last few years (this is a somewhat doubtful claim to say the least). The failure to salvage Ingushetia would mean that Russia is left with Dagestan as the only critical region in the Caucasus still not messed completely, never mind that Dagestan has a low scale insurgency going on in its mountains too. But if the Russians want to try reconstruction in Ingushetia then they will find this task much easier if they start with it right now, before they find themselves left with no other option but to flatten the whole place just as they had to do in Chechnya.

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