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Eye On Eurasia: Russia's Security Weakness

Burned cars are parked in front of a police station in Nalchik, Russia, 13 October, 2005. At least 60 people were reported killed and another 100 injured when rebels launched a large-scale attack on the southern Russian city, triggering fierce street battles with security forces. Nalchik, capital of the province of Kabardino-Balkaria, looked like a war zone as camouflaged security personnel ranging from local police to elite Russian federal troops backed by armoured vehicles exchanged gunfire with gunmen who attacked at eight locations in the city. AFP Photo.

Tartu, Estonia (UPI) Oct 17, 2005
The actions of the militants in Nalchik last week were "unprecedented" in their scale and organization, a development that highlights the increasing weakness of the Russian authorities in that region and the growing strength of the militants who oppose them, according to a leading military analyst in Moscow.

In an essay posted online over the weekend, Anatoliy Tsyganok, who writes frequently on the operations of the various Russian force structures, outlines in detail his reasons for that conclusion and argues that Moscow's latest proposals for what to do next won't improve matters.

Consider what the militants -- whom Tsyganok identifies as "bandits" -- were able to do: they attempted and partially succeeded in storming all at once three district militia offices as well as the headquarters of the republic's Federal Security Service, or FSB, Interior Ministry, special forces, border patrol, and narcotics control operations.

Such an action, the Moscow analyst continues, is "not simply a terrorist act." Rather it is a clear and ominous indication of "a change in the scale and form of military actions of the separatists" and at the same time of the failure of the authorities to do what is necessary to respond effectively to this new situation.

Even though they were ultimately beaten off, Tsyganok says, "the bandits simply demonstrated that all the earlier declarations that the government had made about ... about stabilizing the situation in the Caucasus, ... [and] about the ability of the [Russian] to cope with new threats...are far-fetched and do not correspond to the realities of today."

While President Vladimir Putin again talks about waging a pitiless struggle against those who invaded Nalchik and while other analysts suggest that Moscow must see ideology rather than poverty as the primary factor behind the resistance movement, Tsyganok suggests a list of questions he says officials should be asking themselves.

Among them are the following: "Why were the government structures as always so slow in responding? Why wasn't there any coordination among them? Where did so many militants come from, and why did they have Russian arms? Why was a city again, as in Nazran, left to the militants for five hours? {And] why were the first stages of the buildings occupied by the force structures not defended and not prepared for defense?"

The Russian side will not be able to change any of this, Tsyganok continues, as long as the authorities continue to place their bets "on the strengthening of the corrupt law-enforcement structures" and on officials who sit in their offices confident that nothing will happen to them.

And Tsyganok pointedly notes, conditions in the northern Caucasus will not change until the Russian government "enjoys the trust of the population and the exchange of information" that such trust makes possible.

Despite 15 years of experience with what Moscow calls "the counter-terrorist operation in the Caucasus," Tsyganok continues, Russia's force structures and special forces "only imitate an effort" to cope with it, and as a result, "Russian citizens are being killed on the streets of a Russian city by Russian arms."

Saying that he did not really want to comment on the behavior of those who "by profession are obligated to defend the city and in the first instance its civilian population," Tsyganok nonetheless points out that just as had been the case in earlier attacks, many of these responsible for protecting society chose instead to "defend their own offices until the shooting stopped" rather than going out and doing their jobs.

In his article, Tsyganok provides a variety of data in support of his conclusions, from the absence of communication among the various force structures to the failure of the leadership of the republic to appear in public and rally the population against those who were attacking the city.

As a result, the civilian population was "afraid and does not believe the government. "It is no secret," Tsyganok continues, "that the force and special structures do not trust and do not share information with the militia and the Interior Ministry" because there are too many chances that such information will leak out.

But in Nalchik, this failure to share information reached new and dangerous proportions: There, he notes, the Defense Ministry closed the airport without telling its colleagues what it was doing, an approach that Tsyganok says, simply "stinks" and guarantees more distrust among these groups in the future.

What the Russian forces need now, he adds, are "new forms, new principles and new relations between social and the special forces," not in the form of a new anti-terrorist law that "will [only have the effect of] strengthening the special forces and giving bureaucrats more rights".

Rather he adds, with obvious skepticism that this will happen, it should take the form of "a law that will regulate the state program of creating these forces, the mutual informing of the population and special forces, [and] the setting up of a single center of information analogous to those in Canada, Australia or France."

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Policy Watch: Putin's Quest For Asia
Washington (UPI) Oct 03, 2005
Increasingly at odds with the United States and even the European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been seeking allies in Asia, where governments seem less concerned about his record on democratization and human rights.

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