Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Russian Terrorism Response

By now, this has been discussed ad nauseum across the blogosphere, as well as here at The Urban Empire.

Four days ago I wrote:
Putin, for the first time that I can remember, publicly admitted Russian weakness in terrorism and border defense. This is key, because Putin's image as a tough, resolute leader has been severly wounded in these attacks. By admitting the weakness, he will seek to redeem himself through military actions.
And apparently, I underestimated his response.
BESLAN, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's top general threatened on Wednesday to attack "terrorist bases" anywhere in the world, as security services put a $10 million bounty on two Chechen rebels [Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev] they blame for last week's school siege.


"As for launching pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases, we will carry out all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world," said General Yuri Baluevsky, chief of Russia's general staff. (via Yahoo! News)
Sounds like Vladimir has incorporated parts of the Bush Doctrine into Russian foreign policy. I doubted then that Putin would (or could) respond beyond the Russia's immediate sphere of influence, but Dan Darling corrected me. From this Winds of Change thread, apparently, the comment permalinks don't work when linked from Blogger.

My comment:
I have a feeling there will be a pretty significant response, because Putin's speech highlighted a lot of weaknesses, which was quite surpising, because as you know, his whole presidency is based on an image of tough, uncompromising, strength when it comes to Chechnya. And he might conclude that the only way to redeem that "credibility" is to be brutal and launch some kind of offensive. Plus, not doing anything other than reforming his security services (while important) is an invitation to more horrendous attacks like this one. So, he might have no choice but to respond.
His reply:
The idea of a massive Russian invasion of Georgia proper or just Pankisi is still very much on the table, I suspect. They also now have to deal with Basayev's infrastructure in Ingushetia that would have had to have existed in order for the incursion into North Ossetia to have ever occurred. As it now stands, Russian forces have sealed off North Ossetia and are launching an aggressive search for any of the hostage-takers who may have escaped (they already paraded one escapee around on Russian TV). That should be their top priority while they assess the situation, identify who the foreign backers were (I imagine that Abu Omar al-Saif is getting his checks signed by someone other than bin Laden) and make preparations to neutralize them. Keep in mind that the Russians assassinated Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev [in Qatar, no less!], the former Chechen president and Wahhabi ideologue who convinced Mullah Omar to recognize Chechen "independence," back in 2003 after they'd linked him to the theater seige. If I were a prince in a certain Magic Kingdom, I'd be doubling my security and getting somebody else to start my car and taste my food right about now.
That's a very interesting idea. I was initially dismissive of the Russians doing anything inside Saudi Arabia, as yes, they are basically the ideological epicenter of Islamism, but taking out a prince (I would include clerics too, if a direct link could be made) or two would hardly solve anything. Well, besides pissing off the royal family and if that the case, I'm sure they'd be able to get in contact with an al Qaeda cell and not so covertly fund an attack on Russia in retaliation. General Yuri Baluevsky's comments about striking terrorist bases made in sound like he was talking about the Pankisi Gorge or Ingushetian terrorist infrastructure set up by al Qaeda and various Chechen nationalists.

All in all, I expect Putin to join with Bush on many more issues from now on and I can foresee this strengthening Bush's hand in relation to the national security canard. On the other hand, it could put more strains in the Russo-American relationship because what if Putin decides to take a harder line with US allies Georgia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and whoever else. Time will tell.

Unfortunately, Russia doesn't fight wars like we do. They leveled the Chechen capital twice, killing thousands. Dan says the total civilian casualities for the second Chechen War is around 80,000! The next month could be pivital in the war on terror.