Russia is Doomed in the Caucasus

Looks like New York Post columnist Ralph Peters has been boning up on Russia right here at La Russophobe. His latest column tells the world that Russia is doomed in the Caucasus, and Vladimir Putin’s leadership is an utter disaster. Most crucially, he delivers an unambiguous warning about the dangers posed to the next Winter Olympics:

It’s been an embarrassing week for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, prime minister and de facto czar.

On Monday, Islamist suicide bombers struck just a rifle shot from the Kremlin. The worst of the two subway bombings rubbed ex-KGB man Putin’s nose in it by slaughtering dozens in the Lyubanka station — named for the notorious security-service headquarters upstairs. And the day after the two blasts killed 39 (with twice that many hospitalized), Islamist terrorists renewed their bombing campaign in Russia’s Muslim republic of Daghestan, next to battered (Muslim) Chechnya.

Adding to Putin’s rage is that the Islamists are based less than a day’s drive from Sochi, site of “his” 2014 Winter Olympics — which could wind up making the 1972 Munich Games look like a terrorist amateur hour. Doku Umarov, the “emir” of a self-declared Islamist state encompassing the North Caucasus — inside Russia’s southern border — claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Putin went on TV to swear he’d drag the terrorists “up out of the sewers.” His Mini-Me, President Dmitri Medvedev, flew to Daghestan to denounce the Islamists as “scum” (the word, svoloch, is far more forceful than its English equivalent). But these huff-and-puff threats have been made before, followed by round-ups of hey-you suspects and extrajudicial killings (frequently to settle local scores). The only lasting change has been to further radicalize the region’s Muslims.

Putin’s done all he can short of outright genocide. His posture’s been as tough and uncompromising as that of his Muslim enemies. Yet, enduring success continues to elude him. The terror campaign persists. Does this bode ill for our own counter-terror efforts? No. And here’s why:

*The Islamist rebellion in the North Caucasus has roots three centuries deep. The region changed hands multiple times in the 18th century, between Persians, Turks and Russians. There’s a heritage of violence — and frustration with intractable locals — from Peter the Great to Putin. In the 19th century, it took czarist generals a full genera- tion to capture the Osama bin Laden of the day, the Daghestani warrior-mullah Shamil (who was, to be fair, more honorable than Osama). That conflict’s enshrined in Russian literature, from Lermontov to Tolstoy.  During World War II, Stalin felt so insecure about his Muslim subjects that he deported the entire Chechen population to Siberia — an event still festering in the Chechen psyche. The problem here isn’t international terrorism (despite some ties), but a religion-fueled, culture-driven, history-accelerated secessionist movement. This is a domestic issue. It’s as if we faced the threat of a homegrown Islamist takeover in New Jersey and Delaware.

* While Putin’s response to the Islamists has been fierce, it’s also been clumsy. Countering religious fanaticism requires killing those who need killing, helping those who need help — and knowing the difference. Russia’s military and security services have killed and tortured with little discrimination and gotten themselves drawn into local vendettas (and crime). Their intelligence work’s been inept.

* For both sides, this conflict now verges on a war of extermination. A prisoner taken is a prisoner tortured. Russian commandos, client militias and the Islamists vie to out-do each other in savagery; murders of human-rights workers, political reformers and journalists are routine.

* The strongmen Moscow imposes as local governors have no legitimacy in the eyes of those they try to rule — so they rely on blind force and bribery. Moscow’s local point men are nearly all tainted by ties to regional “mafias.” Putin appoints, uses, then kills the local power players when they become inconvenient.

* The republics of the North Caucasus have been left behind developmentally, with crime the most rewarding career opportunity. As elsewhere, Islamists capitalize on the frustrations of unemployed youth.

* After 300 years, the Russians are still seen as occupiers — and see themselves as such. Yet Putin can’t bear the thought of letting Daghestan or Chechnya go — for two reasons: As a rabid nationalist, he won’t give up another inch of the Russian empire. And he fears that letting one small territory secede might trigger a rush for the exits on the part of other frustrated Russian regions.

As an Army officer, I roamed much of the Caucasus as the Soviet Union collapsed. Locals warned me to stay off the back roads at night. In Putin’s “new” Russia, you can’t drive the main roads in those mountains in the daytime.
There will be no victors. Only more casualties. Putin’s Muslim problem has no solution

28 responses to “Russia is Doomed in the Caucasus

  1. Police kill each other in Dagestan shootout

    • President Dmitry Medvedev urged even harsher measures Friday to crack down on terrorism, including targeting even people who do simple chores like washing clothes for the militants.

      However, Russian police and security forces have long been accused of seizing people suspected of aiding militants. Some people have been tortured, and many have disappeared. And rights activists trying to document the abuses have also been killed, kidnapped or threatened.

  2. Shamil was not “the Osama bin Laden of the day” (Osama is not a military leader at all), he was more of the more successful Kosciuszko of the same time. He was never captured, he had surrendered. And only the Russian barbarity and stupidity is to blame why it took them so long:

    News of the surrender of Imam Shamil, the Dagestani leader of Islamic resistance to Russian imperial policies in the North Caucasus, was greeted with celebrations across Russia. His capture, on August 25, 1859, was welcomed with firework displays in a number of provincial towns outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg. On a number of occasions prior to his surrender in 1859, Imam Shamil had been surrounded by Russian forces. In 1839 Shamil and his murids were encircled by Russian forces at the aul of Akhulgo in Dagestan. After fierce resistance, which led to the death of hundreds of Russian soldiers, the siege of the aul came to a stalemate. Shamil and his murids, along with dozens of families were trapped, starving as a result of the Russian siege. Russian forces sought a bargaining chip from Shamil, as a way to open further discussions about his surrender. Historians suggest that guarantees were brokered by both sides before Shamil agreed to hand over his son, Jamal al-Din. However, Russian forces reneged upon this agreement, sending Shamil’s son to St Petersburg whilst simultaneously unleashing a barrage of artillery on the aul. The following evening Shamil and his followers slipped through the Russian lines using the cover of darkness.

    • Btw Akhulgo: the Russian army under Lt. Gen. Pavel Grabbe lost 3,000 men killed or wounded there. That is almost half of their entire force.

      1,200 highlanders loyal to the Caucasian Imamate fell – no male prisoners were taken after the village was finally taken, and the Cossacks also slaughtered many women and children, which was typical. There is no Akhulgo today.

  3. a glowing dithyramb dedicated to my oppressed Chechen brothers:

    Черный чурка-исламист.
    Бей его скорей расист!
    С ишаком в чечне живет,
    И аллах акбар орет!

    Весь заросший бородой,
    Черный, грязный, и тупой,
    Зад песком он вытирает,
    Букв и чисел он не знает.

    Дорогой пиджак Армани
    Носит он со спортштанами
    И с возлюбленной ослицей
    Он спешит скорей в столицу!!

  4. Another bombing, this time in Ingushetia

    Ingushetia hit by suicide attack

    A suicide attacker has killed at least two police officers in the Russian republic of Ingushetia, in the latest in a series of such bombings.

  5. An opposite to Ralph Peters opinion can be found in a fresh article of Mark Adomanis at

    Excellent reading, enjoy it.

    • Quite opposite: a really stupid rant written in a huge, bolded letters.

    • Also seriously, who is this “Mark Adomanis” kid?

      • “Quite opposite: a really stupid rant written in a huge, bolded letters.”

        Problem with fonts?

        • Problem with idiotic rants.

          • Robert wrote about his problem: “Problem with idiotic rants.

            Now that you realize that they are your problem, maybe you should cut down on writing them?

            Start by eliminating stupid rants about non-existent “huge, boldoed letters” and automatic disqualifications of books just because they are “pro-Slobo” or opposed to KLA terrorists or KLA heroin gangsters.

            • Haha.

              Slobo was a gangster. Literally. He killed his previous boss and mentor, he killed his underbosses (inlcuding the most infamous, “Arkan”), guess why his family is still wanted in Serbia for corruption, and hide in Russia instead?

    • Ziggy,

      How is Adomanis’ opinion different from Peters’. I tend to agree with both (Peters: Russia lost or never had any control over Caucasus; Adomanis: Don’t justify terrorism by root causes).

      Adomanis’ post isn’t very talented (Karuthammer expresses similar points much better), but I wouldn’t call it stupid rant, either. Blogs are to express thoughts, not to try for Pulitzer…

      • Not an idiotic rant? Really?

        Check this out:

        “In fact, if you go way out in neocon cloud cuckoo land, you can even find people who straightforwardly sympathize with the Chechens. The creepy neocon association with Chechen rebels, who are about a violent, sadistic, and depraved a bunch of killers as one can possibly imagine, is simply the 10,000,000th piece of evidence that, for all their endless babbling about “morality,” neocons are and have always been motivated solely by power.”

        And he linked to of all places.

        And an article by a fellow idiot: (or maybe not idiot, but he’s just cynical and he does it for pay; he also wrote a book titled “Travesty: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice” and so on).

        • I mean, he (this Adomanis kid) linked to this article.

          In case if you didn’t get, it’s a pro-Slobo book.

          But hey I can’t wait for the sequel: “Travesty II, Electric Boogaloo: The Trial of Vladimir Putin and the Corruption of International Justice”.

          • Robert – relax, this Adomanis kid is not getting on my short reading list any time soon. I was challenging Ziggy’s statement that it’s an opposite opinion and was viewing the quality and intelligence of the writer in the most charitable way…

  6. In the wake of Beslan, the government of Russia proceeded to introduce draconian laws and expand the powers of law agencies. Giving them “cart’ blanch” to act how they saw fit in the north Caucuses.

    Putin also signed a law which replaced the direct election of the heads of the federal regions of Russia with a system whereby they are proposed by the President of Russia and approved or disapproved by the elected legislative power bodies of the federal government. The election system for the Russian Duma was also repeatedly amended, eliminating the election of State Duma members by single-mandate districts. There is now no local representation, power is centralized causing a disconnection with the people.

    The Kremlin consolidated its control over the Russian media and increasingly attacked the non-governmental organizations (especially those foreign-founded). Putin’s circle of siloviki used the Beslan crisis as an excuse to increase their grip on Russia, Colin Powell said in 2004; that Russia was “pulling back on democratic reforms” while George W. Bush expressed concern that Putin’s latest moves to centralize power “could undermine democracy in Russia”.

    Russia’s brutal draconian laws have led too a suppression of the people. Denying individual human rights has only exacerbated the situation rallying many to the separatist’s course .These “reforms” have patently not worked.
    Most rational governments would understand this painful fact and seek a new strategy one that has a chance of winning hearts and minds within the north caucases.But this is not what we see from this regime they promise more draconian laws more human rights abuse, they speak only of destruction, eliminating the enemy. Medevedev tells us that the person who cooks the food is as guilty as the one placing the bomb. He seems to believe that everybody in the north caucuses is guilty by association.

    Putin/Medvedev like a pair of Roman Emperors are playing up to the blood lust of the mob This may pacify the mob for now but when this doomed strategy leads too more and more attacks probably in Moscow, The mob may well turn on them.

    • Actually such repressions are actually nothing new at all, including directed against completely innocent people who only do as they’re told by “the authorities”:

      The victimization doesn’t always stop at burning. In one case, told to NEWSWEEK by murdered activist Estemirova, a woman was summoned to municipal authorities after her house was burned down 12 months ago. The woman, told to bring her son back, packed up a few belongings and set off to the village where she thought she might find him with the militants. Instead, she was detained and brutally beaten. During questioning, interrogators broke her leg and said, “So you were going into the forest to see your son? Now you won’t be walking anytime soon!” She was charged as an accomplice to the extremists and convicted. The little sack with food and underwear that she had been carrying into the forest was deemed to be “food supplies for the militants.”

      Of course the difference is that the “blackshirt” Medvedev publicily and very openly ordered them to be “more cruel” now. (Even as they already disappeared people by thousands and such.) And this is a direct quote from “the young liberal leader”.

    • He added: “The war will come to your streets and you will feel it on your own skins.”

      Until that moment most Russians had never heard of Umarov. They had started to believe the Kremlin’s claim last summer that the war in Chechnya had been won.

      As the war continued Umarov, the father of six children, found his family targeted repeatedly. His brother Ruslan was abducted in 2005 and allegedly tortured by agents of the FSB (the former KGB) in Chechnya. He is thought to have been executed. Two other brothers, Mussa and Issa, were killed in combat.

      Then Chechen forces loyal to Moscow abducted Umarov’s young wife and one-year-old son, along with his father Khamad, 74. The wife and son were released. Umarov claims his father was executed. His sister Natalia was abducted and freed. After that it was the turn of his cousin Zaurbek and nephew Roman, who are still missing, presumed dead.


      According to security sources, an FSB hit squad has been sent to assassinate Umarov. The Kremlin fears that he is plotting the kind of mass hostage-taking for which he once condemned Basayev.

      Asked recently whether he had such plans, Umarov replied: “If that is the will of Allah. Shamil Basayev did not have the opportunities I have now … If Allah allows me, there will be a result.”

  7. Twin bombings killed at least two people and injured 13 others outside a police station in Ingushetia on Monday as a State Duma deputy called for a media ban on statements made by suspected terrorists.

    Newspapers and other media outlets would be banned from reporting Umarov’s claim of responsibility and other statements by Chechen rebels under legislation proposed by United Russia Deputy Robert Shlegel on Monday.

    Shlegel, who at 25 is the youngest deputy in the Duma, said in his LiveJournal blog that the reporting of statements by people wanted on terrorism charges or convicted of terrorism put media outlets in cahoots with terrorists. He said the reports stirred up an atmosphere of fear and insulted the relatives of those killed in terrorist attacks.

    Shlegel also challenged Google to remove Umarov’s video from its YouTube site to show that it did not support terrorists. Google did not immediately reply to an e-mailed request for comment.

    The chances that Shlegel’s proposed legislation would make it to the floor of the Duma were unclear Monday.

    Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov has also criticized the media for reporting Umarov’s statements, and he singled out Vedomosti and Moskovsky Komsomolets as offenders at a Kremlin meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday.

  8. Who cares about the Caucasus?

    Rather, the revelation yesterday of the cretinous Yanks “lighting up” a dozen Iraqi civilians from a helicopter, doing what the cowardly Yanks do best, is only hastening the demise of the Great Satan!

  9. Ok, dear, so why you care more for your Iraqi “brothers”, but whenwe are discussing the fate of hundreds thousand of Chechens or Daghestanis you’re like “”who cares about the Caucasus?”. Lots of people care actually, including Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists… Because they are people too and their sufferings aren’t any less significant than the ones of Iraqis.
    And you seem to care not for those Iraqi civilians but for “the demise of the Great Satan!”
    Btw, dude, you are using the language of Khomeini, so if you’re his follower you have to be Shi’ite and don’t you appreciate that the Great Satan you hate so much liberated Iraqi Shi’ites from Saddam who tortured and killed thousands of them?
    So what you don’t care about your fellow-believers. You are focused just on your hatred of America. So if Russians kill and opperess Muslims you are like who cares, without maybe having a slightest idea what’s been going on in the Caucasus for years: executions, mass murders, rapes of Muslim women and men by brutal Russian soldiers, concentration camps, wives, sisters and children taken as hostages. But you are ready to turn a blind eye on whatever your precious Russians are doing as long as they back Ahmadinejad and his rabid clique

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