Streetwise Professor

April 24, 2009

Georgia on My Mind

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 8:07 pm

The signs from The Republic of Georgia are ominous. News reports of exchanges of fire between South Ossetia and Georgia.  An intercepted Nashi provocation.  And most importantly, repeated Russian histrionics over NATO exercises in Georgia.  These exercises were planned prior to last year’s war, and in any event, are basically a glorified staff exercise, rather than serious maneuvers.  But Medvedev has made a big deal out of them:

“This is the wrong decision, a dangerous decision,” Medvedev told a news conference at his state residence outside Moscow.

“Decisions of this kind are aimed at muscle-flexing,” he said. “Such decisions are disappointing and do not facilitate the resumption of full scale contacts between the Russian Federation and NATO.”

Tensions over Georgia have been running high since Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s failed bid to retake the pro-Moscow breakaway region of South Ossetia in August.

Even more ominously, Russia is moving troops to within 25 miles of Tblisi:

Russia has stationed its forces just 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Georgian capital, in violation of the EU-brokered cease-fire that ended last year’s brief war. And in recent weeks, it has sent even more troops and armored vehicles to within striking distance of the city ahead of street protests against Georgia’s president.

But don’t worry!  They will get a stern talking to!:

The European Union and United States consider Russia to be in violation of the cease-fire signed by President Dmitry Medvedev, which called for troops to pull back to positions held before the war began.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country takes the EU’s rotating chairmanship in July, said this week that the EU has often pointed out to Russia that it is not in compliance and “will continue to point this out.”

Oh, many it won’t be that stern.  “Pointing out” barely makes it to “tepid,” let alone stern  

Pavel Felgenhauer, who correctly predicted the onset of the Russo-Georgian War last year, is convinced that Russia will finish the job this year.  The limp-wristed European, NATO, and yes, American responses to Russia’s increasing pressure, and skirting–and arguably flouting–the cease fire must give Russia confidence that swallowing Georgia will entail little if no political or diplomatic cost, let alone a military one.    

Indeed, Russia’s domestic economic troubles may provide a strong spur to foreign adventurism. I suggested yesterday that Putin was betraying signs of desperation as the economic situation worsens. Fear of unrest, be it among the elite, or the populace at large, always weighs heavily on the minds of autocrats. In such a system, a foreign war can be very useful politically.

The hysterical reaction to the NATO exercises in Georgia cannot be a rational reaction to any military threat posed by the NATO troops, who will be represented by less than a company per nation participating. Nor can it be a rational reaction to any threat that the exercises will bolster the Georgian military sufficiently to pose any threat to Russia.

It could be explained, however, as the reaction of a government that perceives the presence of even small numbers of NATO troops interferes with its timetable to launch a war. If a splendid little war is needed to short circuit domestic discontent, even a delay could be quite costly indeed.

Whatever the reason for the Russian troop movements, the border clash, and the overwrought reaction to what are about the most benign military exercises imaginable do not bode well.

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  1. If you don’t count South Ossetia and Abkhazia as being part of Georgia then you are not in violation of the cease-fire pact. And that is what Russia is doing now. I guess it is time for the NATO and EU as well to understand that after what various Georgian governments have done to its minority population over there, you can’t expect them to live under one roof any longer. Russia is playing the game very well. Now it is provoking action from Saakashvili. They are waiting for him to make his next mistake. If he lies his finger on the Ossetians Abkhazians, or his own Georgian opposition again, Russia will step in and make sure to put a Russian friendly president on the Georgian throne that will recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as indpendent nations. That is the only way to keep that region quiet for a longer period of time. So the people can focus on buidling up their lives in stead of living in poverty, because some Georgian autocrat loves his army, NATO and the EU more then his own citizens.

    Comment by Seraphiel — April 24, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

  2. “If you don’t count S. Ossetia and Abkhazia as being part of Georgia.” Well, “you” includes: Russia, Nicaragua, and Hamas. Wow. “Not you” includes every other country in the world, inc. every CIS country, even Belarus which is usually a reliable Russian toady.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 24, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

  3. Remind me, what is your stance on Kosovo, SWP?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 25, 2009 @ 1:41 am

  4. […] nerd Tony Blair as the aristocratic one Vladimir Putin as Batman and Bill Clinton as the voice Georgia on My Mind – 04/25/2009 The signs from The Republic of Georgia are ominous. News […]

    Pingback by Ладушки.Net » Blog Archive » Posts about Putin as of 25/04/2009 — April 25, 2009 @ 3:03 am

  5. Wow, another hilarious new low for Mr. Oblivious! He wants to be reminded but not to remind, of the fact that HE BELIEVES RUSSIA IS RIGHT ON KOSOVO, right on Chechnya, AND right on Abkahazia/Ossetia.

    Only a moronic Russophile ape is capable of this kind of blind, ignorant hypocrisy. In their “thinking” Russia has every right to force Chechnya to remain part of Russia and to demand that NATO take its hands off Yugoslavia, but Georgia has NO RIGHT to keep Ossetia or force Russia out — and it doesn’t matter a bit that all of Europe is against Russia on BOTH issues.

    Like I always say: With “friends” like that Russia needs no enemies.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 25, 2009 @ 6:35 am

  6. The Professor:
    “Well, “you” includes: Russia, Nicaragua, and Hamas. Wow. “Not you” includes every other country in the world, inc. every CIS country, even Belarus which is usually a reliable Russian toady.”

    So are you suggesting that despite the fact that Russia recognized those two regions as independent, they should just pretend that they didn’t? That’s absurd. You’re looking at this from a point of view that Russia should be appeasing to the rest of the world (actually just the west, since the rest of the world seems mostly indifferent) instead of working in its own best interests by protecting the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and pursuing its own strategic goals in the area. But why? Why should Russia care what the rest of the ignorant world/west thinks about two regions they’d never heard of prior to August 8, 2008? You even pointed out yourself that the EU doesn’t seem to give much of a crap, or at least they know they can’t do anything about it so they won’t make a big fuss. So why on Earth should Russia comply with the wishes of these uninvolved parties who care only about politics?

    As for a new war in Georgia, I think it’s a beyond outlandish suggestion and bordering on tin-foil hattery. The Georgian military is simply no longer capable to start another fight, and there’s no way Russia is just going to roll the tanks in and start bombing Tblisi for the hell of it. The threat of Georgia joining NATO any time soon is gone, and Sakashvilli is now a political corpse, in the words of someone I can’t recall right now. A regime change from within is inevitable, the people see Sakashvilli for the dictator/puppet that he is. What more could Russia want? (oh wait, I’m not thinking like a cold-warrior Russophobe, they want to resurrect the USSR and annex all their neighbours! Lol. Still waiting for that invasion of Ukraine btw.)

    La Russophobe: Chechnya? Are you really trying to compare the two? Who did South Ossetia invade before Georgia’s crackdown? (Even the Georgian claim about rocket attacks was debunked by OECD observers.) How many Georgian citizens were slaughtered at the hands of Abkhazian terrorists in the name of self-determination? How long ago did Russia absorb Chechnya compared to Georgia and South Ossetia? That’s like comparing the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to the invasion of Poland in 1939. Utter nonsense, but I think you know that already. (Or perhaps I’m overestimating your level of knowledge on the subject…)

    And the EU is certainly not against Russia on the issue of Chechen independence. They’re against indiscriminate bombing of cities and human rights abuses, serious issues that were quite regrettable and must be condemned. Here is the 1999 EU declaration on Chechnya, which states: 2. The European Council does not question the right of Russia to preserve its territorial integrity nor its right to fight against terrorism.

    *braces self*

    Incoming insults, down-talking and off-topic ranting!

    Comment by BobFromCanada — April 25, 2009 @ 10:25 am

  7. DR–

    Re Kosovo. Deeply ambivalent. On the one hand: (a) it is more of a criminal enterprise rather than a state (similar to S. Ossetia in that respect); (b) it is a potential entrepot into Europe for terrorists of a religious persuasion that shall remain nameless (and for drugs, etc.); (c) from a purely realpolitik perspective, no vital American (or even European) interest involved, and by recognizing Kosovar independence, US and EU and NATO gave Russia pretexts for moves that threaten grave danger to vital interests. On the other hand: the beastly behavior of the Serbs post-1990 was horrific, and worth stopping. (My daughter is taking a course in Eastern European history at Texas A&M. When talking about the course, she remarked about what trouble makers the Serbs were. And she hadn’t even reached WWI in her reading yet.) If it had been up to me–Ha!–I would have let things remain the way they were, in a sort of suspended animation. Keeping the Serbs from ethnically cleansing the Kosovars. Keeping the Kosovars from ethnically cleansing the Serbs. No independence. Not a perfect solution, but in my view better than the path that was chosen. Sometimes muddling through is the best option.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 25, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  8. Agree with every point the Professor made.

    Comment by penny — April 25, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  9. Bob,

    Please stop lying.

    It’s clear that you don’t blog, because you make no attempt to document your ridiculous claim about Ossetian attacks on Georgia. There has been no finding by OECD or anyone else that Ossetia was not attacking Georgia; in fact, Russian warplanes violated Georgian airspace repeatedly before hostilities broke out and the UN formally so found. All international reviewers have agreed that Ossetia had been attacking Russia for months before the fighting broke out and Russia was negligent in its role as “peace keeper” in failing to halt those attacks.

    What’s more, Russia itself invaded Georgian territory far outside Ossetia after hostilities broke out, though Georgia never set foot in Russia, and Russia used cluster munitions banned by international law to kill and injure far more Georgian civilians than were harmed by Georgian forces in Ossetia.

    What’s more, it makes no difference what justification Russia had for invading Chechnya, the point is that the ONLY reason the invasion occurred was to stop Chechnya from obtaining independence. Had that been granted, no attacks by Chechens on Russians would have occurred, exactly the same as was true in Ossetia.

    Russia can argue it has the right to hold Chechnya. It can argue it has the right to separate Ossetia from Georgia. But it can’t argue both, and neither can you. The world unanimously condemned Russian aggression in Ossetia by refusing to recognize it as independent. Even China did so. Did you miss that fact? Your command of the basic facts is unworthy of a first-grader, laughable and disgraceful. Your apparent notion of having deep insights unavailable to others about Russia is hilarious.

    Comment by La Russophobe — April 26, 2009 @ 3:05 am

  10. I am sorry, but this is non-sense. Obviously these NATO exercises pose no military threat, but their symbolism is what matters. Think about this. Why conduct exercises in Georgia at all if not to give a hope to Sakhashvili and this is precisely why Russia has taken such hard stance on this. NATO is shooting itself in a foot by supporting a guy who will soon have to murder his opposition to cling to power. The beauty of the situation for Russia is that it can just sit and wait for this to happen and when NATO interferes even with few companies it prolongs the course of events.

    Comment by Slava — April 26, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  11. +++Why should Russia care what the rest of the ignorant world/west thinks about two regions+++
    How about the stupid thing called ‘conscience’? How about some idiotic concepts of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? What about simple realization of the undeniable fact of how bad the Russia’s history most of the time has been and what kind of reputation goes with the country name? And how large is the work Russia has to do in order to finally shake that off?

    You don’t really consider RUssia morally equal to, say, Britain? Or even Portugal? If you do – that is the root cause of yor error. Which, if pursued by those in power, will enevitably bring Russia to another big trouble.

    +++As for a new war in Georgia, I think it’s a beyond outlandish suggestion and bordering on tin-foil hattery.+++
    But you just said that Russia should not care, right. Given the well known moral deficiencies, prevalent in Russian society for many hundreds of years, why would anyone refrain from doing that just because they can? Just to show who is the boss? Just because this is fun?

    Comment by LL — April 26, 2009 @ 11:15 am

  12. Please stop lying.

    I was talking about immediately prior to the conflict. The claim that Georgia was defending itself from attack during the cease-fire which prompted them to “crack down”.

    NYTimes: “According to the monitors, however, no shelling of Georgian villages could be heard in the hours before the Georgian bombardment. At least two of the four villages that Georgia has since said were under fire were near the observers’ office in Tskhinvali, and the monitors there likely would have heard artillery fire nearby.”

    All international reviewers have agreed that Ossetia had been attacking Russia for months before the fighting broke out and Russia was negligent in its role as “peace keeper” in failing to halt those attacks.

    What? Ossetia had been attacking Russia? I’ll assume you meant Georgia. The fact is that there were ongoing border clashes with attacks and provocations coming from both sides. All South Ossetia wanted was its independence, they certainly never wanted to invade Georgia and seize more land, or “spread their influence”, like the Chechens attempted to do. And they never targeted civilians. Like I said, stupid comparison.

    “and Russia used cluster munitions banned by international law to kill and injure far more Georgian civilians than were harmed by Georgian forces in Ossetia.”

    Oh dear. You’re so uninformed I’m getting exhausted correcting you on these basic facts over and over again. Both countries were accused of war atrocities by HRW: Human Rights Watch said Georgian troops used “indiscriminate and excessive” force, including tank shelling of civilian homes and the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. Georgian authorities admitted the use of cluster bombs but claimed they only targeted the military.”

    And in that same link you can see civilian casualty figures: 162 Ossetians, 69 Georgians.

    You know I’m just going to stop replying to you if you keep this idiocy up. You seem to be living in some sort of dream world. It pains me to think how often you must misinform your few blog readers in the same way. And they’re probably people like Penny who don’t even care about factual accuracy as long as it portrays Russia as an evil imperialist dictatorship.

    “What’s more, it makes no difference what justification Russia had for invading Chechnya, the point is that the ONLY reason the invasion occurred was to stop Chechnya from obtaining independence.”


    “Had that been granted, no attacks by Chechens on Russians would have occurred, exactly the same as was true in Ossetia.”

    Incorrect. They already had de facto independence when they decided to invade Dagestan, killing hundreds of Russians. Not to mention the apartment bombings (please don’t bother with the hilarious conspiracy theories that you no doubt believe with all your heart). Besides, that’s not an excuse either way. You can’t simply give into terrorist demands and give them whatever they want. Once you do that they start demanding more and becoming more powerful and entitled. That was exactly why they felt so bold as to invade Dagestan in the first place, and if you think they would have stopped there had Russia sat back and done nothing, you’re nuts.

    The world unanimously condemned Russian aggression in Ossetia by refusing to recognize it as independent.

    Maybe if by “the world” you mean “America and its cronies”. The world was indifferent, and the vast majority of countries issued statements calling for a halt to hostilities on both sides.

    Even China did so.

    No, China never condemned anything. Their official reaction was neutral and similar to most other countries outside of the west. They simply didn’t support Russia for the obvious reason that they have their own separatist problems ripe for conflict, and they cannot pour fuel on that fire. Remember this was right after the Olympics with all that free Tibet hysteria going on.

    Anyhow, considering that the bulk of my response has been correcting basic, easily obtainable facts that you have completely backwards, I don’t think I’m going to continue this debate on any further. Anyone reading this can now see that your entire arguments are based on complete fabrications and total skewing of facts, so I’m satisfied with that.

    Comment by BobFromCanada — April 26, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  13. Slava, you are making a very unfounded and scurrulous accusation that Sakhashvili is “a guy who will soon have to murder his opposition to cling to power”. Perhaps you are confusing him with Putin.

    Comment by penny — April 26, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  14. Penny i did not intend to turn this into a rhetorical debate. I think everyone who knows a bit about the situation on the ground in Georgia would agree with me, but then again, you stand where you sit. The policies of Mr. Putin is a whole different story and mixing it with discussion of Georgia would not do much good for any discussion. Anyhow, I really do think that Sashashvili would be long gone had he not received 3 bn or so in “aid” from the Europeans and the Americans. In a meantime, he just bought himself some more time, but not much. I can see how he either flees to the US in 6 to 12 months from now or gets hung on a first tree.

    Comment by Slava — April 26, 2009 @ 10:07 pm

  15. BobfromCanada,

    “ You can’t simply give into terrorist demands and give them whatever they want.”

    Well, what Russia then gave to terrorists during the second Chechenyan war? They bombed the whole country to stone age all over again the second time in five years! Thus, it seems that the Russian interpretation of “terrorists” covered the entire Chechen nation of about one million people…

    Comment by Dixi — April 27, 2009 @ 3:36 am

  16. Bob from Canada, you know, it is not only a Russian thing to “bomb countries into stone age”. Good old Britain did it all the time, the US is perfecting this in Afghanistan, there is nothing special about how Russia dealt with Chechens. The irony of the situation is that Eltsin himself encouraged Chechens to break away, but that was before Eltsin came to power. His reasoning was – if at least one republic breaks off, then Gorbachevs position of President of the USSR will be null and void. I guess Eltsin did not keep his promise to Dudaev. Anyhow, there is nothing special about Russia in how it fought with the rebels.

    Comment by Slava — April 27, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

  17. DR–

    Ambivalence is quite legitimate I think, and is an honest posture. If I were in the position to choose, which I was/am not, of course, I believe that I would oppose statehood, given all of the considerations. As I suggested in my original response to your query, I would support a policy of muddling through, with the limited objectives of (a) preventing ethnic cleansing, and (b) reducing the use of Kosovo as a gang/terrorist haven.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 27, 2009 @ 5:03 pm

  18. OK.

    Second question – what about Georgian attempts at ethnic cleansing in their breakaway regions?

    PS. Yes, I realize Ossetians and Abkhazians are no less guilty of that. But the same goes for Kosovar Albanians in relation to Serbs.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 27, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

  19. What about Russian attempts at ethnic cleansing in their breakaway regions?

    OSCE on Russian ethnic cleansing of Georgians
    It has been a while since last post on the blog, but now, as the Norwegian High Commissioner on Nationa Minorities in OSCE, Knut Vollebæk has made a statement on the situation in the russian-occupied parts of Georgia, I decided to post his statement as published by Civil Georgia, April 14:

    Knut Vollebaek, the OSCE high commissioner on national minorities, called on the authorities in breakaway Abkhazia “to put an end to the pressure being exercised on the Georgian population in the Gali district.” “I am deeply concerned about recent developments in the Gali District of Abkhazia, which have led to a deteriorating security situation in the region” The OSCE commissioner said that the pressure on local ethnic Georgian population was exerted through “the limitation of their education rights, compulsory ‘passportization’, forced conscription into the Abkhaz military forces and restrictions on their freedom of movement.”
    He also expressed “regret” about the decision of the Abkhaz leadership to close the administrative border, “which makes it increasingly difficult for the population to maintain family contacts, access necessary health care or sell their products on the other side of the de facto border.”
    “I am concerned that such coercive practices, which violate international law, may further destabilize the already fragile inter-ethnic situation in the region and force many Georgians to leave,” Knut Vollebaek said. “I reiterate that international norms and standards require that any authority exercising jurisdiction over population and territory, even if not recognized by the international community, must respect the human rights of everyone, including those of persons belonging to ethnic communities. I urge the de facto authorities to desist from all intimidation and the imposition of Abkhazian ‘citizenship’ on and forced conscription of Georgians living in the Gali District. I also urge the de facto authorities to respect the education rights of Georgians residing there and to allow Georgian students in the region to study in the Georgian language.”
    “While I understand and welcome the desire of the de facto Abkhaz authorities to strengthen the Abkhaz identity and language, I would like to stress that this should be done in a way that does not negatively affect the rights of persons belonging to other ethnic communities in the region to maintain and develop their own language and culture.”

    Comment by Eistein G — April 27, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  20. DR (and anyone else who may be interested): I wrote about Kosovo’s independence in early March of last year. Here’s the summary paragraph:

    “In sum, it is possible to protect the Kosovars from the Serbs without supporting full-blown independence. It raises an issue with Russia that Putin and his coterie can exploit, but does not provide any offsetting benefit to the US or Europe. So it would have been far preferable indeed to craft a third option that would have protected Kosovo; not presented such a stark challenge to the Westphalian system; and deprived the Russians of a hobby horse that they can ride to raise mischief.”

    So, I have been consistent on this issue, and have not trimmed my position in light of the events of early August and subsequently.

    However, I was wrong in that piece when I opined:

    “I doubt that Russia will do anything precipitate in response. In particular, I doubt that it will carry through on its threats to support separatist movements in Ossetia and Abkhazia, and for the very reason that it is so exercised over the Kosovo “precedent.” Russia fears the precedent because it fears the centrifugal, separatist forces within the RF, most notably in the north Caucasus. Justified or no, Putin and others in the Kremlin are aghast at the prospect of a breakup of the RF, or at least the breakaway of certain parts of it. If Kosovo serves as a precedent for separatist movements that Russia fears could fracture Russia, Russia would only reinforce the precedent by supporting such movements in Georgia or Moldova. So, such support would be cutting off Russia’s nose to spite its face. This is not to say that Russia will refrain from stirring the pot in Georgia or Moldova or in the Ukraine (over Crimea, for instance), but they will stop short of supporting and recognizing independence movements.”

    I continue to believe that Russia has more to lose from separatism within its own borders than it has to gain from supporting it in the post-Soviet space. Presumably Putin et al believe that they can have their cake and eat it too, by using traditional imperial measures (force, threats of force, fraud, co-opting locals, blackmail, bribery, political technology) to keep a lid on separatist forces within the RF, while exploiting the Kosovo issue and Western pussillanimity to give it reign to exploit separatist tensions in CIS countries.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 27, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

  21. It is my understanding that the worst ethnic cleansing occurred in the early-90s, and of course I do not condone it in any way, then, or in the present. You will note that my original reply to you explicitly mentioned the Kosovar cleansing of Serb areas. I do not romanticize either side.

    The Russian peacekeeping mandate in Georgia (and Transdneistra as well) has always been highly anomalous, and the constructiveness of its efforts were to be doubted seriously even before the August war. Russia seemed more interested in freezing/stoking conflict rather than trying to mitigate it. Moreover, its obvious imperial interest makes it particularly unsuitable as a peacekeeper. Russia stymied any efforts to introduce a more impartial peacekeeping force into the region.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 27, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

  22. Slava–

    1. Re bombing back to the Stone Age. In the context of a total war against genocidal enemies, the United States and the UK did indeed wage a brutal bombing campaign, including raids on civilian targets. The US attempted for a considerable period in World War II, and suffered grievous casualties in the attempt, to limit its bombing campaigns to military targets. Technological limitations, the intensity of the defenses, and the cruel logic of total war eventually led to far less discriminate use of airpower, especially against Japan in 1945. The British were indeed more culpable, as they from the very beginning fell victim to the “Jupiter Complex” and resorted to area bombing against civilian targets (cf., Hamburg).

    Ever since, and especially in the years since Vietnam, however, the American military has turned away from such methods, and attempted to rely on precision to permit the waging of intense bombing campaigns that limit civilian casualties. Such casualties can never be eliminated, but it is indisputable that the American military has done more to attempt to limit civilian casualties than any military in history. Period. It has done so despite the fact that this has cost American lives.

    Your statement that the US is “perfecting” an indiscriminate “back to the Stone Age” strategy in Afghanistan is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I am tempted to call it a lie, but perhaps you are just shockingly ignorant. The US military routinely calls off airstrikes and the use of direct and indirect fires against high value targets because of the presence of civilians. Every airstrike and indirect fire mission requires sign off by a JAG officer. They tend to err on the side of caution. Those civilians who are killed in airstrikes and other US/NATO military operations are frequently the victims of Taliban violations of the rules of war, specifically, deliberately taking position in civilian areas.

    Here’s a piece from Strategy Page that discusses the actual nature of the US air campaign in Afghanistan. Any resemblance to “bombing back to the Stone Age” is a figment of your rather fervid imagination:

    Smart bombs have led to far fewer bombs being dropped. This has led to many changes in the way wars are fought. Keep in mind that during the peak six years of the Vietnam war, 6.7 million tons of bombs were dropped. That was the same rate they were dropped during the major bombing campaigns of World War II. But in eight years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, only 42,000 tons have been dropped. Thus, while in the past, a million tons were dropped a year, for the war on terror, less than 6,000 tons a year were dropped. That means a reduction of over 99 percent. Even when you adjust for the different number of U.S. troops involved, that’s still over 97 percent fewer bombs dropped.
    It’s not only been fewer bombs and missiles, but smaller ones. While during Vietnam the average bomb size was close to 1,000 pounds, now it’s less than half that. Weapons like the hundred pound Hellfire missile are more popular with the ground troops, than the 2,000 pound bomb that was so often used in Vietnam.

    Most of the bombing is now being done in Afghanistan. In Iraq, less than a ton of bombs a month are being dropped. In Afghanistan, it’s over 100 tons a month. In Afghanistan, this tonnage has declined nearly 40 percent in the last year. Partly due to the greater use of smaller bombs and missiles, and partly due to the greater use of civilians as human shields by the Taliban.

    This human shield tactic is all part of a clever Taliban effort to exploit local and foreign media. By using civilians as human shields, and getting more Afghan civilians killed, thus forcing the foreigners to change their ROE (Rules of Engagement) to the point that the Taliban can avoid air strikes if they just grab some women and children. About a hundred civilians are killed each month in Afghanistan. Most are killed by the Taliban, but 10-20 percent are killed by American smart bombs, missiles and shells.

    The Afghan government can only condemn the Taliban use of terror (murder, kidnapping, arson and looting), but they are expected to do something about the civilian deaths caused by foreign troops. The government is forced, by media stories of the bombing deaths, to call for “fewer civilians deaths.” When it’s pointed out that this makes it more difficult to fight the Taliban, the Afghans suggest that foreign troops go in and kill the Taliban one by one. But this gets more U.S. and NATO troops killed, and even suggesting this is bad for troop morale. No one likes to discuss this openly, because U.S. and NATO commanders admit, at least off the record, that the lives of their troops are more valuable than those of Afghan civilians being used as human shields. Letting the Taliban get away, because of the use of human shields, is no solution either, because those Taliban will eventually kill more civilians and foreign troops. But the media outcry, often bought and paid for by the Taliban or drug lords, works its magic. The Taliban also use these fatalities to stir up those opposed to foreign troops even being in Afghanistan (an ancient and cherished tradition among many Pushtun tribes), and this results in newsworthy demonstrations and protests.

    There are actually fewer civilian deaths in Afghanistan, compared to Iraq, because of terrorist attacks. Al Qaeda learned their lesson in Iraq, and are not as murderous against uncooperative Afghan tribal leaders as they were against Iraqi ones. This time around, the Taliban seek to either ally with, scare off, or buy off all the tribes in southern Afghanistan, and form a Pushtun coalition capable to defeating the tribes that comprise the other 60 percent of the Afghan population. At best, that will lead to another civil war. But this reality does not dissuade the Taliban leaders, who believe they are on a Mission From God. And those civilians who are killed while serving as human shields, are declared “involuntary martyrs.”

    Also, it is readily apparent that there is no comparison whatsoever between the American MO in Afghanistan or Iraq, and the Russian MO in Grozny/Chechnya or the Soviet one in Afghanistan, for that matter. I remember the hue and cry that the Russians raised about the Georgian use of Grads against Tskhinvali for one night. Well, Russia leveled Grozny with Grads (often firing cluster munitions), as well as other heavy artillery. And thermobaric explosives. Perhaps the Russian outrage over the use of Grads in Ossetia was based on their own knowledge, gained bloodily on the streets of Grozny and other cities in Chechnya.

    Due to the shocking incompetence, unprofessionalism, and callousness of the Russian commanders, conscripts were led like lambs to the slaughter. (I won’t even get into the venality of those unit commanders and higher ups who sold weapons to the Chechen rebels that were turned on their own soldiers.) To make good their inability to prevail by any remotely civilized means, the Russian military–under both Yeltsin and Putin–engaged in indiscriminate slaughter that could legitimately be called a “bombing back to the Stone Age” tactics.

    Again, even the attempt to draw analogies between this behavior and what is transpiring in Afghanistan, or what transpired in Iraq or Afghanistan, whatever you think of those conflicts, is a slander.

    I will further note that millions of refugees who had fled during the years of the Soviet war, and subsequent Taliban rule, returned to Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001-2002. Nothing comparable has occurred in Chechnya.

    In sum, it is deeply wrong for you to say that there is “nothing special” about the way Russia treated the Chechens. Your comparison–in the same sentence–of Russian actions there to American actions in Afghanistan suggests that the conduct of the Russian and American militaries in these conflicts is indistinguishable. I would say that is ludicrous, but that word is not adequate by any means. That comparison is so far from the truth that it can only be attributed to such a degree of ignorance that you have no business expressing an opinion on the subject, or to such bad will that you are willing to make slanderous comparisons in order to justify your conclusions.

    The only way in which there is “nothing special” about the behavior of the Russian military in the Chechen Wars of the 90s is by comparison to earlier Russian imperial campaigns in the Caucasus.

    2. Re rape. With regards to the wars in Chechnya in particular, there are numerous reports documenting widespread rape by Russian soldiers. Here is one. Here is another. And a third. A fourth. I could go on. A Google search of “russia military rape chechnya” turns up 23K+ hits.

    One would perhaps be reluctant to place too much credence in these accounts if one was ignorant of the well-documented campaign of mass rape by the Red Army as it proceeded across Eastern Europe and Germany in WWII. One source conservatively estimates that 130,000 women were raped in Berlin alone. Historian Anthony Beevor estimates that the Red Army raped millions of women. Beevor denies that there was any political motive behind this wave of atrocities. He absolves the Soviet leadership of responsibility, because he found no evidence Stalin et al planned it. However, something of such a vast scale cannot occur without the direct knowledge of, and complicity by, the entire chain of command. It was therefore a state and military policy, regardless of whether it was the subject of a direct order. Against such a background, the numerous accounts of systematic rape in Chechnya gain considerable credence.

    Perhaps you will try to weasel by pointing to your use of the phrase “distinctly Russian.” Indeed, sadly, other armies in history have engaged in mass rape, so it cannot be said to be “uniquely” or “distinctively” Russian. In the 20th century, the Japanese in China and Korea and elsewhere in Asia engaged in widespread rape. Certain German units, esp. SS, in the Second World War, were also guilty. However, (a) there is no modern army that has been as systematically guilty of rape as the Soviet Army in WWII, and (b) there is no organized military today that has been credibly accused of such widespread rape as Russia’s in Chechnya. To find anything comparable today, you need to look at guerilla armies in savage wars in places like Congo or Liberia.

    War is an ugly, ugly thing. Every army commits atrocities. It is a common, and disreputable, debating tactic quite fashionable among Russians or others making apologies for the actions of the Russian government or military to point to such episodes in other armies to absolve Russia’s of any blame. “Everybody does it.” This is an abdication of judgment. .01 and 1,000,000 are not zero, and in that sense as positive real numbers they have something in common. But they are not the same. Serious judgment requires an honest comparison of the scale of misconduct, as well as its mere existence. By every reasonable metric Russian conduct in Chechnya has been monstrous on a scale not matched by any nation to which Russia would consider itself a peer. And, what’s more, this conduct is clearly of a piece with the conduct of the Russian Army’s imperial and Red forebears. Say what you will about American campaigns against the Indians, or Dresden, or Tokyo in March 1945. But whereas the US has consciously striven to eschew indiscriminate force, and to eliminate the direct targeting of civilians and the use of terror to achieve military outcomes, the same cannot be said of Russia.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 27, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  23. Slava,

    “…the US is perfecting this in Afghanistan, there is nothing special about how Russia dealt with Chechens.”

    Well, let’s SEE (take a CLOSE look) Guess what city…nothing special? To Prove your claim, please, show me one picture of Kabul (or for that skae, any other modern city) showing the ENTIRE city being as massively destroyed as Grozny.

    Anyway, even if you could (which I doubt). How would that ease the pain of those poor Chechens still surviving in a country ravaged as absurdly as the picture ( above shows? In fact, if the Russian army treats people they claim being their “fellow citizens” like this, how would they treat their “real enemies”?

    Comment by Dixi — April 28, 2009 @ 3:25 am

  24. +++One would perhaps be reluctant to place too much credence in these accounts if one was ignorant of the well-documented campaign of mass rape by the Red Army as it proceeded across Eastern Europe and Germany in WWII. One source conservatively estimates that 130,000 women were raped in Berlin alone. Historian Anthony Beevor estimates that the Red Army raped millions of women. Beevor denies that there was any political motive behind this wave of atrocities.+++

    O, Professor, they are lying. They are all lying out of hate of Russia and all things Russian, don’t you know? Beevor… who the hell is Beevor? They either lie or swallow old Goebbels’ baits, that’s all. Nothing like that has ever happened – a usual statistics of troops misbehavin’ (a few examples from Iraq follow), same as everyone else. Can’t really argue on opinions while your opponent disagrres on facts.

    Well, turning off the sarcasm mode. This is totally off-topic but here is a provocative thought on the matter: Boris Sokolov, a Russian historian, has recently came up with a suggestion (which, as he warns right away, at this point is a pure speculation and a product of reasoning on his side) that the rape & violence wave at the end of WWII might not be something totally outside of the Soviet leaders’ control. He notices that the worst and the heaviest part of it did occur in the areas meant to be de-Germanized after the war: Prussia, Silesia and Pomerania. Very few incidents happened elsewhere so he suggests it might have been a covert campain of ethnic cleansing – to scare the Germans so they move out. Which is what actually happened (and Poland is far from blameless here).

    Just a food for thought. There is no documented proof, of course and no one knows if it ever be found.

    Sorry for the off-top.

    Comment by LL — April 28, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  25. The professor, looks like i touched on a sensitive subject judging by your thorough and a bit hysterical response that was both quite insightful and quite insulting in some places. I don’t even know where to start. I think i will refrain from responding line by line and just point out my thought how Soviet Afghan and American Afghan war was different in tactics. It was not a whole lot different. The soviets occupied the whole country in the first two years, but eventually were pushed to one narrow road from Kabul to the North. They started to rely on helicopters to attack insurgents and insurgents responded with Stingers that were eagerly provided by the US. The Soviets controlled only Kabul in the second part of the 10 year war and eventually they realized that they could not do more. Now, the US and its allies is doing exactly the same few years since the beginning. They control Kabul and rely on precision strikes, which don’t work because Taliban and insurgents grow faster than they get bombed. They don’t have Stingers, thank god Russia’s don’t provide them with Shmel’s, so they resort to roadside bombs that have exactly the same tactical effect – increase the cost of being there. Now, in terms of casualties, the soviets lost something like 10,000 people if I recall. The American’s lost what, about 3,000 by now? that’s without contractors and allied nations. All things considered, the toll is quite comparable. So I am not sure what exactly you mean by talking about the incompetence of Russian commanders. But, I am not going to even go in this direction, because i think it is amateurish to turn a debate into a discussion whose military commanders are better. It just depends, on a commander and on stereotypes across different countries.

    PS It’s funny how some people today call Russian soldiers rapists. You know, during the Napoleonic wars a common rumor in Paris was that Russian Cossacks eat children. Come on people, we are all grown up to separate good ideas and lousy stereotypes.

    PSS By the way, if you ever want to see that Russians are just like any other people on earth, they live and die, love and hate, work and rest, I suggest that you take a trip down there and discover a very fascinating and humane culture. Here is a good place to start:

    Comment by Slava — April 28, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  26. Furthermore, even if the rape allegations are true – so what?

    German women had the vote in Weimar times and they helped elect Hitler. With a few honorable exceptions, German society had no problems with an aggressive and genocidal war of expansion to the East, which killed 27mn Soviet citizens. The Nazi leaders conceived of it as a racial, merciless struggle and planned the extermination of Slavic city dwellers and the helotization of their peasants. They paid a price for it, the German men with blood, and the women with honor – not a bad deal relatively speaking.

    It is difficult and indeed pointless and immoral to feel more sympathy for for them than for the Belarussian villagers who got exterminated on suspicion of harboring partisans or the gassed Jews, Roma and Soviet POW’s or the millions in the western USSR who starved to death because of Nazi food requisitioning.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 28, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  27. I am making the point that a) while both are wrong, genocide is a lot worse than rape – although perhaps to you, Russian lives = Westerners’ chastity? and b) that you a-historically insist on interpreting the past from today’s moral perspectives, which has been formed in the absence of total war for over 60 years. Your appeal to things like individual moral agency would have been laughed at by Europeans in the 1940’s.

    Yes, I believe Russia did no wrong in Chechnya, excepting some major military-related mistakes and corruption concentrated in the First Chechen War. Terrorists need to be put down any which way, and it is this kind of limp-wristed attitude that is losing the US its war against the Taleban – who would similarly laugh at liberal concern for their human rights.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 28, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

  28. DR–

    It is you that is making the connection between violence against women (not chastity, please) and Russian lives. And we needn’t go into any discussion of Russian attitudes towards Russian lives, as evidenced in the lead up to WWII, or the way in which Stalin waged the war, thereby wasting millions of Russian lives. Yes, both rape and genocide are wrong. Period. Because one followed the other, does not mean that the former excuses the latter, if they are both wrong. Since they are both wrong, your “so what?” response and the “they got what was coming to them” “analysis” deserves my criticism–and much worse.

    No, I am interpreting the past from moral perspectives that derive from well before today. I dunno, the New Testament, Kant, to name just a couple. Bourgeois virtues to you, perhaps, but ones that certainly antedate WWII.

    The fundamental, undeniable fact is that at the time, many people recognized the Nazi AND Soviet systems as evil, based on moral standards that far predated the 1930s and 1940s.

    And re Europeans “laughing at moral agency.” No doubt many would have–and did. And that proves my point. Namely, that the dismissal of such “bourgeois” notions of morality laid the groundwork for genocide and mass murder.

    Re Chechnya. In both wars, violence on both sides was indiscriminate. And the violence of the Russian military, and Interior Ministry troops, was not directed only at terrorists. I’ll just leave it at that.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 28, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

  29. “So DR- Yuri Budanov is your hero? ”


    “I’m sorry, why was it again that you live in the United States? You never seem to answer that question….”

    Because I fail to see how it is relevant to our discussions.

    Anyway let’s keep the discussion on hand. Imagine a Soviet soldier who endured four years of privation, great risk of death, observed the burned and massacred villages on the long struggle to Berlin, the death camps in Poland. How would you feel in his shoes?

    Concern towards the enemy tribe would figure very low in my list of priorities, that I’m certain of. Revenge would be at the forefront. And you’d be hypocritical to deny it of yourselves.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — April 28, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

  30. It’s really funny, you all try to label Sublime as inhumane and apologetic for the actions of Russian military and completely miss the largest point that both him and I were making – rape and murder as inhumane as they are are not characteristics of Russian military. It happens in wars, unfortunately. The idea that Russians are not humans but some animals has been widespread in the west among certain groups and this is precisely against this idea that me and Sublime speak against. He was juts pointing out that the good old Germans were not less cruel to the civilians. The good old American’s were pretty cruel to the Vietnamese,(Vietnam still remains the nation of mutants), the good old Japanese were pretty cruel in Nanjing. I could go on and on, but the point is that selective evidence is counterproductive for any debate. Attrocities and war crimes exist in every war. The war be definition is inhumane and especially a total war.

    Comment by Slava — April 30, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  31. @R–

    Thanks for saving me the effort;-)

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 30, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

  32. Slava–

    For your consideration re “moral equivalence” of the behavior of the Russian special forces in Chechnya vs. the behavior of their western counterparts in Afghanistan.

    First, from the London Times:

    THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares.

    When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms – unmarked to conceal their identity – had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were driven to a military base.

    The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her forties, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.

    “At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head.

    “We disposed of her body in a field. We placed an artillery shell between her legs and one over her chest, added several 200-gram TNT blocks and blew her to smithereens. The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem.” The technique was known as pulverisation.

    The young recruits were taken away by another unit for further interrogation before they, too, were executed.

    The account is one of a series given to The Sunday Times by two special forces officers who fought the militants in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. Their testimony, the first of its kind to a foreign journalist, provides startling insights into the operation of secret Russian death squads during one of the most brutal conflicts since the second world war.

    The men, decorated veterans of more than 40 tours of duty in Chechnya, said not only suspected rebels but also people close to them were systematically tracked, abducted, tortured and killed. Intelligence was often extracted by breaking their limbs with a hammer, administering electric shocks and forcing men to perform sexual acts on each other. The bodies were either buried in unmarked pits or pulverised.

    Far from being the work of a few ruthless mavericks, such methods were widely used among special forces, the men said. They were backed by their superiors on the understanding that operations were to be carried out covertly and that any officers who were caught risked prosecution: the Russian government publicly condemns torture and extrajudicial killings and denies that its army committed war crimes in Chechnya.

    In practice, said Andrei and Vladimir, the second officer, the Kremlin turned a blind eye. “Anyone in power who took the slightest interest in the war knows this was going on,” Andrei said. “Our only aim was to wipe out the terrorists.”

    The two officers expressed pride in their contribution to the special forces’ “success” in containing the terrorist threat. But they spoke on condition they would not be named.

    Andrei, who was badly wounded in the war, said he took part in the killing of at least 10 alleged female suicide bombers. In a separate incident he had a wounded female sniper tied up and ordered a tank to drive over her.

    He also participated in one of the most brutal revenge sprees by Russian forces. Following the 2002 killings of two agents from the FSB security service and two soldiers from Russia’s equivalent of the SAS, the troops hunted down 200 Chechens said to be linked to the attacks.

    In another operation, Andrei’s unit stumbled across dozens of wounded fighters in a cellar being used as a field hospital. Some were being tended by female relatives. “The fighters who were well enough to be interrogated were taken away. We executed the others, together with some of the women,” he recalled. “That’s the only way to deal with terrorists.”

    Following an inconclusive war in Chechnya from 1994-6, Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, launched a second war in 1999 and set the tone by vowing “to wipe out militants wherever they are, even in the outhouse”. More than 100,000 Chechens are thought to have died by the time the Kremlin declared earlier this month that it was over. Grozny, the capital, was all but flattened. Putin’s toughness earned him great popularity at home.

    Acts of blood-curdling brutality were committed by both sides as the rebels tried to turn Chechnya into an Islamic state, often decapitating Russian prisoners. One Russian victim was filmed being mutilated with a chainsaw.

    As the war raged, Chechen terrorists launched suicide attacks against civilians in the Moscow metro and at a rock festival. In 2002 a gang including 18 female suicide bombers seized more than 800 hostages in a Moscow theatre, 129 of whom died when the Russians pumped poisonous gas into the building on day three of the siege.

    In their most savage act, the rebels took hundreds of school-children and their relatives hostage in Beslan. The three-day siege in 2004 ended with the deaths of 334 hostages, more than half of them children.

    It was in this highly charged climate that the death squads were operating. Andrei recalled that his men had detained a suspect who had several videos of militants torturing Russian hostages. One showed him laughing as his comrades raped a 12-year-old girl and then shot off three of her fingers.

    “We all went berserk after watching this,” said Andrei, who had begun to beat the suspect. “He fell to the ground. I ordered him to get up but he couldn’t because of his handcuffs. I ordered the cuffs off but something was wrong with the lock. I became angrier and ordered one of my sergeants to get them off no matter what.

    “So he took an axe and chopped his arms off. The prisoner screamed in agony. Clearly it would have been impossible to interrogate him further so I shot him in the head.”

    Andrei said he thought of his opponents not as human beings but as cockroaches to be squashed. He was unapologetic about acts of cruelty but said he did not condone excessive boasting among his men.

    “I had a problem with one of my guys, who liked to collect ears which had been chopped off prisoners. He’d made a necklace and was very serious about taking this home. I did not like that kind of behaviour.”

    The brutality continued after Moscow began to cede more control to Chechen special forces made up of former rebels who switched sides. Militias commanded by Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin president, are also accused of abducting, torturing and executing suspects.

    Vladimir said he had established a death squad that hunted down, tortured and executed more than 16 alleged militants in 2005. The squad’s commander would log a bogus mission in a faraway location in his unit’s official register to provide an alibi. “We’d break in, take the suspect and vanish. We’d duct-tape and handcuff them. If there was resistance we’d gun down the suspect. If, in the firefight, someone else got killed then we’d plant a gun on the dead person.”

    Vladimir and his men referred to their prey as “zaichik” – a term of endearment used by lovers that means “little hare”.

    “Only a very small circle of my men took part in this work. Some of those we abducted were tougher than others but eventually everyone talks when you give them the right treatment.

    “We used several methods. We’d beat them to a pulp with our bare hands and with sticks. One very effective method is ‘the grand piano’ – when one by one we’d smash the captive’s fingers with a hammer. It’s dirty and difficult work. You would not be human if you enjoyed it but it was the only way to get this filth to talk.”

    A hammer would also be used to smash a captive’s kneecaps and militants would be forced to perform sexual acts. The scenes would occasionally be filmed and circulated among enemy combatants in psychological warfare.

    “You have to be a certain kind of person to do this job – very strong,” Vladimir said. “Those who carried it out always volunteered. It would not be right to order one of your men to torture someone. It can be morally and psychologically very tough.”

    Andrei added: “What mattered most was to carry out this work professionally, not to leave evidence which could be traced back to us. Our bosses knew about such methods but there was a clear understanding that we should cover our tracks. We knew we’d be hung out to dry if we got caught.

    “We are not murderers. We are officers engaged in a war against brutal terrorists who will stop at nothing, not even at killing children. They are animals and the only way to deal with them is to destroy them. There is no room for legal niceties in a war like this. Only those who were there can truly understand. I have no regrets. My conscience is clear.”

    Next, from Strategy Page:

    May 1, 2009: Once again, Special Operations troops in Afghanistan have run into problems with ROE (Rules of Engagement). This time around, Czech commandos were recently sent home because their ROE prevented them from doing what commandos do. In at least one case, Czech commandos were held back from an operation because it was considered too dangerous. In other situations, the Czechs opted out of an operation because they believed they did not have sufficient manpower.

    This sort of thing influences the use of most foreign troops in Afghanistan. NATO commanders in Afghanistan are not happy with all the strings attached to their authority by politicians back home. The ROE for NATO troops contain over seventy restrictions on how the NATO commander may use troops assigned to him. Most of these have to do with where national contingents can be moved, and how much they can be exposed to danger.

    Last year, Germany is pulled its commandos out of Afghanistan. The KSK commandos have been there for most of the last seven years. Many Germans, especially leftist politicians and journalists, have not been happy with that. This has resulted in several unflattering, and largely inaccurate, articles about the KSK in the German media. There was also an investigation of several KSK men, accused of kicking an Afghan prisoner. While the KSK were allowed to fight, they also operated under an increasing number of restrictions. They generally could not fire at the enemy unless first fired upon. This led to at least one senior Taliban leader getting away from the KSK. The fleeing Taliban honcho was not firing at the pursuing KSK, so the commandos could not take him down.

    Germany sent 120 KSK commandos to Afghanistan in late 2001. They were not given their own area of operation, but worked with American special forces and commandos as needed. The KSK commandos were the first German troops to engage in combat since 1945 (not counting some communist East German military advisers who may have had to defend themselves in places like Africa. German peacekeepers in the 1990s Balkans did not have to fight.) KSK’s achievement was celebrated in late 2001, when a supply of quality German beer was flown in for the troops. This celebration became a scandal, at least according to indignant media reports, back in Germany.

    The KSK were respected by their fellow special operations soldiers, and particularly liked because the Germans were sent beer rations (two cans a day per man). The KSK troops would often share the brew with their fellow commandos, which sometimes resulted in favors in the form of special equipment or intel data. Even with the restrictions, the KSK saw lots of action, but little of it was publicized, lest it generate more criticism back home. But the growing list of restrictions on the KSK led to them becoming useless for commando operations, and they were withdrawn.

    There were also Arab commandos in Afghanistan, who eventually got pulled because of a growing list of restrictions, and fear that the presence of these elite troops be widely known. “Moslems fighting Moslems” is a hot button issue in the Islamic world, even though the Arab commandos were eager to go after al Qaeda, and other Arab terrorists known to be operating in Afghanistan.

    All this was a major disappointment to the commandos involved. Afghanistan has become something of an Olympics for foreign commandos, a place where they could operate under fire against a dangerous (and thus worthy) foe. Most commandos have trained to deal with Islamic terrorists (especially commandos in Islamic countries) and Afghanistan was an opportunity to do what they have trained so hard for.

    Presumably there will be those who will defend the Spetsnaz methods as justified in fighting vicious Chechen terrorists. But there is no way that you can say that it’s just the kind of stuff “that happens” in every war. Yes, sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn’t. There are lines that some armies never cross that others cross frequently, and with relish.

    And your equation of US actions in Viet Nam with the Japanese in Nanking in the same sentence is just bullshit. Mutants? Please.

    I suggest you watch fewer Oliver Stone movies and pick up a book. You know, like a history book.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 1, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  33. And it is precisely this limp-wristed moral failing to be firm and uncompromising to barbarians, that is the reason why the US is losing to Taleban religious fundamentalists and why Somalian pirates attack shapping with impunity around the Horn of Africa.

    The cheaper, more effective and ultimately more progressive method would be to install a Stalin-like figure in Afghanistan and Pakistan to crush all Taleban and root out all those who support them (and to force social and economic development), and to blow all pirate ships out of the water as soon as they are detected and bombard any harbors sheltering them. Any admiral in the age of sail would have pulled it off with ease.

    Instead liberals yapper on about the human rights of terrorists and pirates and force the US to spend vast amounts of money on less effective methods, helping push it into imperial overstretch and bankruptcy. Well, at least they make good comedy for those same barbarians, who laugh at the self-destructive degeneracy of liberal civilization even as they sharpen their knives and get ready to show it what they think of human rights.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 1, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  34. DR,

    First you said that the way the Russian army behaved in Chechnya was “nothing special” and the British, U.S. etc. Western armies do the same now as before. Then I showed you this picture and asked you to prove your claim by showing a correspondent picture of Kabul (or for that sake, any other modern city) showing the ENTIRE city being as massively destroyed as Grozny.

    Surprise, surprise! Instead of proving your claim, you changed the tone totally. All of a sudden, your original claim of the Russian army in Chechnya doing exactly the same that the U.S. army in Afghanistan is completely passé!? Instead of being TOO brutal you claim the Americans being far TOO SOFT. This is the post nr. 43 on this topic, so please, do try to make up your mind whether the problem with the US army in Afghanistan is its excessive inhumanity or humanity!

    Comment by Dixi — May 2, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  35. Dixi,

    You’re not very good at following who you’re talking to, are you?

    (Hint – Slava and I are not the same person).

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 2, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

  36. I pretty much agree completely with DR. Comparing operation methods in Chechnya and Afghanistan is flawed because only one was actually successful. The Russians might have been more brutal than their counterparts in Afghanistan, but at least they got the job done and innocent people won’t be dying en mass for the next two decades while living under a dictator that makes Kadyrov look like Micky Mouse. The fact of the matter is that Chechnya was a lose-lose situation. The choices were A: a short brutal war, or B: a rogue terrorist state launching attacks into Russia proper and trying to spread its influences into other regions while killing civilians for decades to come. There was no C: leave them alone and everyone lives happily ever after.

    “Presumably there will be those who will defend the Spetsnaz methods as justified in fighting vicious Chechen terrorists. But there is no way that you can say that it’s just the kind of stuff “that happens” in every war. Yes, sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn’t. “

    “Every war”? Every war isn’t fought against vicious Chechen terrorists who use the lowest methods possible to conduct warfare. A rocket makes a bigger boom than a silenced pistol, but only a fool would try to fight a tank with a silenced pistol (which is exactly what we’re doing in Afghanistan).

    “There are lines that some armies never cross that others cross frequently, and with relish.”

    Some armies are successful, some aren’t. Perhaps if NATO started crossing some of those lines they may actually see some form of success in Afghanistan. Right now they’re playing it in the middle. They’re trying to be nice and win over the population, but they’re making just enough stupid mistakes and killing just enough civilians to prevent that from ever happening, meanwhile their chances of defeating the Taliban militarily is basically zero. You can’t win a guerilla war against people who want to die and have no problem whatsoever with using civilians as cover without taking a hard-handed approach. It’s simply impossible, and we need to withdraw from Afghanistan immediately because that’s a fact that our military leaders don’t seem to understand.

    Comment by Bob From Canada — May 4, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  37. DR/Sublime oblivion,

    Aha, Sublime Oblivion answers to my post addressed to Da Russpohile, that is, you two pseudonyms really are the one and same person… and “both” posting on this same blog! Now how on earth could I (or for that sake any other person) follow who of all you russophile pseudonyms is currently whitewashing Russian atrocities in Chechnya? Anyhow, it is quite hilarious to find that two (if it is TWO persons?) russophiles most activily participating on this blog claim the U.S. army for completely opposite reasons (one for excessive softness and the other for being as brutal as any army (including the Russian one)…

    Comment by Dixi — May 4, 2009 @ 4:34 am

  38. I switched from Da Russophile to Sublime Oblivion once, and have never used them interchangeably.

    In any case I have blogs of those names, I don’t have a blog called Slava.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 4, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  39. […] London, Berlin etc again. Who can depend on the West today? Streetwise Professor on 24th April: Georgia on my Mind One must presume that the relevant intelligence services would have seen the same and that, […]

    Pingback by US politics - Hamsterwheel - Page 146 - PPRuNe Forums — May 5, 2009 @ 6:20 am

  40. […] in Georgia on My Mind I speculated about the possibility of a renewal of fighting between Russia and Georgia.  Tensions […]

    Pingback by Streetwise Professor » Georgia Once Again — May 6, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  41. Bob From Canada,

    “The Russians might have been more brutal than their counterparts in Afghanistan, but at least they got the job done and innocent people won’t be dying en mass for the next two decades while living under a dictator that makes Kadyrov look like Micky Mouse.”

    “Job done” said a doctor after a successful operation, “but, unfortunately, the patient died”…

    Tomorrow you NEVER know… But, what we DO KNOW FOR SURE is that INNOCENT people DID die en mass (cf. during the two wars of Chechnya. Justifying this GENOCIDE REVISITED by claiming that this was nothing but a pre-emptive measure against future killings of innocent people is like saying that someone being killed today hinders that he/she might be killed some time in the future anyway…

    Furthermore, considering the brutal history of the Chechen people as a collective victim for Russian imperialism of over 200 years (for example, the ENTIRE nation was deported to Siberia during the 1940s dying there EN MASS) one wonders why the same pattern would not repeat itself as long as there is one Chechen alive in Chechnya? By looking at what has ACTUALLY HAPPENED during the last 200 years in Chechnya there are absolutely no guarantees that a genocide today hinders an even worse one in the future.

    Comment by Dixi — May 7, 2009 @ 2:59 am

  42. First, what do you mean the patient died? Chechnya is dead? How so? as far as I know there are over a million Chechens living in peace right now. This is more akin to radiation therapy that successfully destroyed the cancer. Now the patient will be weak for a while and needs to recooperate, and who knows, it could still come back, but for now the patient is saved and can live on.

    Second, please don’t throw the word genocide around. It really is a kick in the face to victims of real genocide. The bombing of Grozny was no more a genocide than the various bombings of Japan and Germany carried out by the allies in WWII which killed scores more.

    Third, the second invasion of Chechnya was not preemptive. It was a direct result of the Chechen invasion of Dagestan and the Moscow apartment bombings. The purpose wasn’t to stop future attacks that might happen, it was to stop attacks that were going on then and there.

    Comment by Bob From Canada — May 7, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  43. Bob–

    How seemingly UnCanadian of you to be so bloodthirsty. What would Lester Pearson think?

    With respect to the content of your comments, your #45 presents a perfect example of the false dichotomy, e.g., only choices “A. and B.” “no choice C.”

    Stipulated that there are brutal Chechen terrorists that posed a threat to Russia. But you are wrong that Russia could only have prevailed against such forces using the methods it did. And to understand why you are wrong, current NATO operations in Afghanistan are the improper comparison.

    In Iraq, US, and to a lesser degree British and other coalition forces, confronted an enemy as brutal and inhumane, and as willing to employ terrorist methods, as the Chechens. Indeed, US forces confronted a larger, better funded, terrorist opposition force in an area far larger than Chechnya, and where the enemy had various logistical advantages (e.g., supply lines into Syria and Iran) that the Chechens lacked.

    The United States Army and Marine Corps prevailed against such opposition, without resorting to the types of methods employed by Russia in Grozny and elsewhere in Chechnya. Unlike Russia, the US military relied primarily on precision and highly trained combined arms to defeat and destroy the enemy on the ground of his own choosing. It did not resort to indiscriminate indirect fires to level entire cities. It was not forced into such expedients, like Russia was, because whereas the Russian army employed ill-trained, ill-equipped, and appallingly–no criminally–led conscripts who were unable to operate in urban terrain, the US military relied on highly trained, highly motivated, ably led professional soldiers who adapted to the most challenging of combat environments. Moreover, the US military did not engage in the kind of wholesale outrages against civilians like the kind described in the Times article on Chechnya–even in areas where the civilian population aided and abetted the insurgency.

    If you want to see the difference, consider the operations in Fallujah (although operations in Baghdad, Mosul, the Sunni Triangle, and elsewhere could also serve as examples), and contrast them to Russian operations in Grozny. Precision fires, primarily direct fires, as opposed to imprecise, indirect ones. Disciplined combined arms teams that systematically rooted out an entrenched enemy, who found, fixed, fought and finished, in contrast to tragic conscripts who blundered into ambush after ambush. A concerted effort to protect civilians, and to remove them from the battlefield.

    Or, if you want to see another example, consider Israeli operations in Jenin or in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Or even Israeli operations in Lebanon in 2006, once they stopped believing in the air power delusion.

    So yes. Some armies are successful, Bob. And they are successful employing the “option C” which you claim does not exist. Highly trained, professional combined arms forces, backed up by precise fires can “win a guerilla war against people who want to die and have no problem whatsoever with using civilians as cover without taking a hard-handed approach”–if by a hard-handed approach you mean Russian methods a la Chechnya. And therefore, it is NOT “simply impossible” to win such a guerilla war. It is possible. It has been done. It has been done very recently. More than once.

    I should add that anti-guerilla campaigns require a broad spectrum of methods, including efforts devised to win over the population. Those methods are not sufficient, but they are necessary.

    In other words, it is possible to use methods completely different from Russian methods in Chechnya, and win. It is not easy. But it is doable. And it is doable without going all Russian on the civilian population.

    And I wouldn’t rely too heavily on the Moscow apartment bombings as a justification for the war. There is no definitive evidence that this was an FSB plot. But there is more evidence of that than of a Chechen involvement.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — May 7, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

  44. Bob from Canada,

    Thanks Professor and now a few comments for Bob…

    First, how “nice” to talk about bombing a country and an entire nation to the Stone age ( including killing INNOCENT people en mass and then, instead of calling what really happened by proper terms, to start using such distancing terms as “job done” or “destroying the cancer”.

    Second, for me, at least, killing of tens of thousands (at minimum) up to 200 thousands INNOCENT civilians belonging to a small nation of about one million is a genocide. And this has repeated itself several times during repetitive Russo-Chechen colonial wars of the last 200 years. The pattern is always the same: Chechen civilians carrying the severest human losses and the Russian army being the reason for that. Therefore I’m not quite convinced that your rationalisation that, admittedly, NOT ALL Chechens having died, at least thus far, comforts those members of that small nation still alive. What is really weird is that the Russian army keeps carrying cyclical mass killings against an ethnic group of people they, on the other hand, keep claiming being their own fellow citizens!

    Third, aha…and what about the “first” invasion (indeed, NOT REALLY the FIRST during the last 200 years) how come, even though Grozny and the entire land was bombed to the Stone Age, it was apparently not preemptive enough? Or, by concluding with a medical metaphor (if you like?): “More of the same medicine” said the doctor as the patient complained that the “medicine” did not help being actually wrong…

    Comment by Dixi — May 8, 2009 @ 3:08 am

  45. SWP:
    “How seemingly UnCanadian of you to be so bloodthirsty. What would Lester Pearson think?”

    And how seemingly UnAmerican of you to be so bleeding hearted and caring (or does that only apply when it comes to Russians killing civilians, and not your own? Please don’t stereotype me, you clearly know nothing about Canada. And fyi I am not bloodthirsty in the least. I am for withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan regardless of whether or not the war can be won. We have no business being there.

    Now, those methods you mentioned that were used by the American and Israeli militaries to successfully defeat guerrilla combatants were not an option for the Russians. The Russian military in 1999-2001 (and during the first war for that matter), as you pointed out yourself, did not have anywhere near the necessary funding, technical capabilities nor the proper training to do what America or Israel have done in recent conflicts, and they still don’t. They were forced to use what little means they had.

    Further, you’re making the huge mistake of grouping Chechen, Iraqi and Afghani guerrillas all into one big group. There are distinct and important differences between these groups, how they operate, how much support they have, and how far they’re willing to go for their cause. Just because certain methods worked against one group absolutely does not mean the same methods would work against the others. You’ll see that truth become obvious during the next few years in Afghanistan as this newly initiated plan to “do what we did in Iraq” turns to failure.

    “So yes. Some armies are successful, Bob. And they are successful employing the “option C” which you claim does not exist.”

    Option C was “leave them alone and everyone lives happily ever after”. I don’t think waging an offensive war on the other side of the world can be considered leaving them alone. I think the casualty figure is up around, what, 1 million +? But funnily enough, option C did exist in the case of Iraq (as far as Americans living happily ever after goes, not Iraqis, but it’s not like the invasion had their best interests in mind when it was launched).

    One strange thing I find though is that you speak as if Iraq has been won. The situation has improved no doubt, but Iraq is nowhere near as stable as Chechnya, and the end is still beyond the horizon. I’ll call it a victory when mass suicide bombings stop becoming a monthly/weekly event, the political scene is stable with the newly introduced “democracy” functioning on its own, and the majority of American troops have withdrawn from the country. Until then, you’re counting your eggs before they hatch.

    Comment by Bob From Canada — May 8, 2009 @ 4:46 am

  46. Erm, how the hell did Israel win in Lebanon and how the hell is the US supposed to be winning in Afghanistan? Frankly, you seem somewhat detached from reality.

    And re-genocide, the Chechen population increased by 50% between 1989 and 2002, the census years. Hardly a “successful” genocide if it indeed is one. Get real.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 8, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

  47. “And re-genocide, the Chechen population increased by 50% between 1989 and 2002, the census years. Hardly a “successful” genocide if it indeed is one. Get real.”

    Well, by following your “reasoning” no holocaust apparently ever happened since in 1931 there were less than 200000 Jews in Palestine compared to the current number of 5.4 million people…

    Comment by Dixi — May 11, 2009 @ 2:46 am

  48. Интересно. Вообще чтение вашего блога это не просто глупое пролистывание разных тем или чтениевсякой фигни про то, чем человек сегодня занимался, а нахождение реально занимательной информации.

    Comment by Иван Павлюченко — May 23, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

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