Streetwise Professor

April 19, 2013

WWPD?

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 12:26 pm

No, not “What Would Pirrong Do?” but What Will Putin Do?  in the aftermath of the revelation that the Boston Marathon murderers (and cop killers) are Chechens.  I imagine he will express a great deal of sympathy, and offer support in efforts to investigate any connections with Islamists operating in Russia, particularly Chechnya and Dagestan.  The sympathy is pretty much expected, and the support is in his interests, for a variety of reasons, including an opportunity to enlist the US in operations against his arch domestic enemy, and the ability to get a bargaining chip he can use in dealings with the US on other matters.  These efforts will be aided by the likelihood that the attacks-and in particular, their Islamist terrorist nature-will put Obama on the defensive politically.  Especially if there are subsequent revelations that dots weren’t connected.

But there will no doubt be a good deal of schadenfreude and I-told-you-so mixed in.  Putin has always mightily resented the refusal of the West generally and the US in particular (and the UK even more) to consider Russia’s wars in the Caucasus to be another front in, and the moral equivalent of, the West’s and America’s war on Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist movements. He will no doubt say something to the effect of: “This is what we are dealing with, and have been dealing with for years.  Now do you get it?  Don’t you dare criticize us for what we do in Chechnya and Dagestan because now you see the kind of animals we have on our doorstep.”

I think he will go further than this, and in a more cynical direction.  Specifically, he will attempt to use the Chechnyan terror threat as a justification for broader authoritarian measures in Russia, including the continued crackdowns on the opposition.  No, Navalny and (the dead) Magnitsky are not Chechen terrorists, but Putin will likely argue that a destabilizing opposition is danger in a country under threat, especially given the impending Winter Olympics on Chechnya’s doorstep.

And I know that he will use the events in Boston to redouble Russian opposition to any support for the rebels in Syria.  Putin has linked the Syrian opposition to Islamists in the Caucasus, and now those connections will resonate much more in the US.  Putin will take advantage of that, surely.

In brief, the bombing and shooting in Boston gives Putin some strategic, political, and rhetorical advantages, and you can have no doubt that he will exploit them to the maximum.

One last thing.  Putin was very outspoken in his criticism of the attacks, calling them “disgusting.”  He also made personal offers to help the US investigate.  At the time, I thought these were merely pro forma actions.  Now I wonder, at least a bit, whether they might suggest that Putin had some information-or at least a sense-that there was Chechen involvement.  I still think it most likely that he was doing the diplomatic thing, but there could be more to it than that.

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29 Comments »

  1. Chechens teach blood feuds in the cradle.

    Comment by pahoben — April 19, 2013 @ 2:29 pm

  2. Well, we should see what kind of Chechen goons the arrested are: the Kadyrov/Putin kind or the Zakayev type.

    Comment by Vlad Rutenburg — April 19, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

  3. @phaoben. Truly. There are no sympathetic figures here. I’m not a big “cycle of violence” fan, but if it fits anywhere, it fits in Chechens v. Russians. Ever read Paul Johnson’s description of the 18th and 19th century wars in the Caucasus? Appalling. Then there’s Stalin’s deportation. Then there’s the leveling of Grozny, including the promiscuous use of thermobaric weapons. Then there’s Beslan, Nord-Ost, the Moscow Underground, the Moscow-Petersburg railway, the Black Widows blowing up airplanes. Re the 1999 apartment bombings, I am of two minds. I can see it as a Chechen terror attack; an FSB false flag; or both. It’s totally effed up that it spills over here.

    @Vlad. I’m sure they are closer to the Zakayev type. But does it really matter? Who made whom? But whatever grievances Chechens have against Russians, or Russians against Chechens, WTF does that have to do with us?

    I think these were just a couple of nihilists. That’s one thing Russia is very efficient at producing.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 19, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

  4. Not only Russians, but many Ukrainians who recall when large numbers of Chechen refugees came to Kiev in the 90’s were really shocked that Americans let them into their country (at least, based on comments from my friends on facebook).

    Comment by AP — April 19, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

  5. @Professor. Thanks for the follow up. For whatever reason Chechen culture is deeply violent.

    Hard to believe the Russian Government gave a heads up to the FBI two years ago and the FBI gave him a clean bill. It suggests they know nothing about Chechens. and it is uncertain how much PC was involved.

    Comment by pahoben — April 19, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

  6. Livestock farmers are kinda intense. Highlander livestock farmers are outright bandits. Except for maybe the Swiss (or maybe they hide their true nature well). Though I often heard from the Russians that lived there, that if only the USSR had lasted for another couple of generations, the Chechens would have become “normal”.

    Comment by So? — April 19, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  7. @pahoben. No problem. Yes. Extremely violent. I wonder why the Russians are willing to pay so much blood and treasure to try to impose their will on such a people and place.

    Re the FBI . . . I hope to write about that over the weekend. This is Obama’s nightmare. Depending on the details that emerge, it could be quite a problem for him. And it is a matter of what the FBI claims to have found, vs. what will be uncovered in the coming weeks and months by journalists and others. If the non-government researchers find evidence that the FBI didn’t, or which it found but ignored or failed to understand, Obama and Holder will have a lot of ‘splaining to do, Lucy.

    @So? Once upon a time, the Swiss were the most ferocious and effective infantry in Europe. Back before they figured out how to get rich on making watches and private bank accounts, the Swiss supported themselves by hiring out as mercenaries to many of the states in Europe. The Vatican’s Swiss Guards are the last survivors of that tradition. The Swiss didn’t get to be that way because of a lack of intensity, though that has been sublimated into more, say, financial activities in the past couple of centuries.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 19, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

  8. I think these were just a couple of nihilists. That’s one thing Russia is very efficient at producing.

    The Tsarnaev brothers spent a total of about 2 years in Russia. In Dagestan, to be precise.

    Comment by S/O — April 19, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

  9. I believe the Swiss did not become bankers and watchmakers by choice. They got their ass kicked first.

    Comment by So? — April 20, 2013 @ 2:54 am

  10. “I wonder why the Russians are willing to pay so much blood and treasure to try to impose their will on such a people and place.”

    Um, because they don’t stay there when the Russians leave them alone? Recall 1996-1999, when Chechnya became a wretched hive of scum and villainy, then decided these were items for export?

    Comment by wanderer — April 20, 2013 @ 8:41 am

  11. “because they don’t stay there when the Russians leave them alone?”

    If it only had been for Chechnya alone, but between Catherine the Great and the 1917 revolution Russia grew on average of 55 square miles every year (an area larger than San Francisco…every single day for over 250 years.) So apparently there were a lot of peoples like the Chechens who did not “stay there when the Russians leave them alone”…

    Comment by Dixi — April 20, 2013 @ 10:25 am

  12. @So? The Swiss never got their asses kicked, in terms of being invaded if that’s what you mean. The development of infantry firearms and field artillery rendered Swiss pikemen obsolete.

    @S/O. So I guess family/upbringing doesn’t matter. And the one who is evidently the prime mover here-Tamerlan-spent a good part of his youth in Kyrgyzstan, part of the USSR, and which has more than a little Russian influence, especially inasmuch as Russian speakers he and his family were almost certainly primarily affiliated with the Russian/Russian speaking community. And nihilism has been one of Russia’s/USSR’s most successful exports, especially to the Near Abroad.

    @wanderer. 1996-1999. Interesting choice of dates. Remind me what happened in 1994-1995. This is exactly what I meant by cycle of violence, which seems more apt here than in virtually any other context in which the phrase is used. And thanks for summarizing so well the Putin/conventional Russian view of Chechens, which we will no doubt no hear quite frequently, with the Tsarnaev brothers being made into poster children for that view as part of Putin’s campaign to use the Marathon bombing to get American acquiescence for his Caucasus policies. Especially in the runup to Sochi.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 20, 2013 @ 11:21 am

  13. Indeed, Russia expanded. Hardly the only country to do so 1700-whenever.

    And ehow many native Americans rose to the rank of 1 star general commanding a bomber division, I wonder.

    Comment by Wanderer — April 20, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  14. Clearly Dici, what really bothers you about the 1999 Chechen war was the closure of Grozny’s slave markets.

    Comment by Wanderer — April 20, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

  15. So I guess family/upbringing doesn’t matter… And nihilism has been one of Russia’s/USSR’s most successful exports, especially to the Near Abroad.

    So if the Tsarnaev brothers make Russia a bastion of nihilism, I wonder what it would make the US, with its half dozen or so postal shootings every year.

    PS. FTR, no, I don’t think the US promotes nihilism, before you jump in to bayonet that strawman. It is to highlight the ludicrousness of your claim as regards nihilism and Russia.

    Comment by S/O — April 20, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

  16. Family upbringing matters. But that itself is a derivative of the overall culture. And to belong to this or that culture it doesn’t matter how many years you live there.
    The living conditions outside the Moscow and St. Peterburg regions are more or less universally miserable in Russia. The economic landscape is equally devastating in Northern Caucasus overall. But among all the Northern Caucasus people it is Chechnya, first, and Dagestan, second, which produce violence of known proportions.
    I was being told recently that the Dagestani young women cannot go to beech (the Caspian). They are threatened by being shot right there by the islamists.
    I think the hatred towards West and Western values in these societies are very significantly influenced by the level of female emancipation. In the regions where there is higher level of such emancipation there is less violence rooted in the culture. West is largely viewed as the driver of female emancipation leading to the independence of women. To a very large degree it explains the hatred towards the west.

    Comment by MJ — April 21, 2013 @ 12:11 am

  17. Beach, that is…

    Comment by MJ — April 21, 2013 @ 1:56 am

  18. @S/O. Seriously? There are nihilists everywhere, but Russia holds a special place in the history of nihilism. There was a self-described nihilist movement in Russia in the 19th century. Nihilists assassinated Alexander II. Turgenev didn’t invent the term, but he popularized it. It plays an important role in several Dostoevsky novels. And there’s clearly a stronger nihilistic streak in Russia and Russians today than pretty much anywhere else-including the US.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 21, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

  19. @S/O. And “half a dozen or so postal shootings a year.” Care to back that up with stats? And you might also want to comment on the disparity between the US murder rate (hardly admirable) and the Russian one (4x or so worse).

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 21, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

  20. Because I’m sure that the Tsarnaevs are the sorts of people who’d be reading Demons or Fathers and Sons in their spare time.

    Comment by S/O — April 21, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

  21. @S/O. Lame. I didn’t claim they were *reading* Demons or Fathers and Sons. I wasn’t even claiming that they were *being* those characters. Just that the theme of nihilism in famous Russian literature says something about nihilism in Russia. Not that hard to grasp.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 21, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

  22. @S/O

    > The Tsarnaev brothers spent a total of about 2 years in Russia. In Dagestan, to be precise.

    Actually, afaik, they spent more than that in Russia: for example, Tamerlan was born in Dagestan. Afaik, they grew up in various Muslim parts of Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

    They are as Russian as Kurds are Turkish.

    Comment by Vlad Rutenburg — April 21, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

  23. @ Dixi

    > If it only had been for Chechnya alone, but between Catherine the Great and the 1917 revolution Russia grew on average of 55 square miles every year (an area larger than San Francisco…every single day for over 250 years.) So apparently there were a lot of peoples like the Chechens who did not “stay there when the Russians leave them alone”…

    You should look up how fast and bloodily other countries grew, for example, USA, UK, Spain, Turkey and some other current NATO members. You’ll be greatly surprised.

    Comment by Vlad Rutenburg — April 21, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

  24. Actually, you are right: they grew up in Kyrgyzstan, but their attitudes are pure Dagi/Chechen.

    Comment by Vlad Rutenburg — April 22, 2013 @ 12:09 am

  25. There is also a “theme” of bombing civilians in Islamic societies, and a “theme” of going on spree killings in US society*. Is it so radical to imagine that the two above “themes” may have influenced the Tsarnaevs – who had far more of a relationship with both Islam and the US than with Russia – much more than the “theme” of Russian nihilism?

    * Yes, Russia is more violent than the US (though the homicide differential today is more like 2x than 4x). However, spree/postal killings are an almost purely American phenomenon. Most of the homicides in Russia are about middle-aged dudes knifing each other to death after a good zapoi. The Tsarnaevs were tee-totallers.

    Comment by S/O — April 22, 2013 @ 12:42 am

  26. However, spree/postal killings are an almost purely American phenomenon.

    Norway, Finland, Australia, Germany, and Switzerland have all seen spree shootings in recent memory, and I remember both Hungerford and Dunbland in the UK. Only a week or two ago there was one in Serbia. Whereas the absolute number and rate per head of population of spree shootings may be higher in the US than elsewhere, it is by no means a uniquely American phenomenon.

    Comment by Tim Newman — April 22, 2013 @ 7:19 am

  27. @S/O. Interesting you posted your comment re spree killing on a day when there was a mass shooting (6 dead) in Belograd. Timing is everything.

    Russia also has a big serial killer issue.

    I don’t deny the bombing-Islamic connection. Obviously. I also believe that Islam will contributed to Tamerlan’s motivation, and his justification. But the impulse to commit mass murder is at root a nihilistic one, no matter how much the perpetrators attempt to glorify their purpose.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 22, 2013 @ 10:42 am

  28. “I wonder why the Russians are willing to pay so much blood and treasure to try to impose their will on such a people and place.”

    Rasha is a federation. Much of it can be considered “muslim” territory.

    If they let Chechnya go, well, people would get ideas in their heads, and then the Great Rashan Federation wouldn’t have so much territory.

    After all – look at what happened to the sovok union.

    Comment by elmer — April 22, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

  29. @wanderer
    So, it was Russia that expanded… from Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw… in the west to Alaska in the east. That is Russia expanded so far to the East that it actually reached the very West, chic! And still you answered to Professor’s question by stating that “they don’t stay there when the Russians leave them alone?”

    And yes, many countries did expand during the 16th-19th centuries. But how many of these have carpet bombed a town of 500000 – inhabited by its own citizens and claimed to be a natural part of the very same country – to the Stone Age during the last 20 years? And, this happened not “only” once, but twice…

    Comment by Dixi — April 23, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

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