May 29, 2013

Through the looking glass: Chechen-ruled Russia?

That Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov is having more expensive fun than a politician really should has only recently come to my attention, but taxpayers in Russia have been wondering for years about how much Kadyrov's monster trucks and movies with the washed up heroes and starlets of his youth are costing them.

As a commenter explained, Kadyrov is to Vladimir Putin as, in the New Testament, King Herod was to the Emperor Augustus: a local proxy ruler. But, thinking about Rome suggests a second, more sinister possibility that Muscovites discuss amongst themselves: perhaps the Chechen goon squad based in Moscow, nominally to protect Kadyrov on his visits to his master, is also the germ of a Chechen Praetorian Guard to keep Putin in power in case the Russian masses start getting uppity.

Mass armies drawn from the ranks of the people have always been a concern for rulers because they might prove too merciful in a crisis. For example, in 2011 Mubarak's conscript army appeared unwilling to slaughter civilian protestors Tianamen Square-style. Indeed in 1989, the Chinese Communist state's first attempt to crush the protestors failed because the local soldiers sympathized with the students. The government had to find a distant army comprised of peasants who despised the urban rich kids to do their dirty work.

Here are some excerpts from a reader's email:
I've spent a lot of time in Russia and can tell you the Chechens are the one locals tell you not to make eye contact with.  It's interesting that post-communist Russian nationalism looks a bit different these days than in the 90's and early 2000s--a significant portion of younger patriots want no part of empire, resent the Kremlin's subsidies to the North Caucasus (their slogan "Stop feeding the Caucasus!"), and hope for separation. Solzhenitsyn hoped for union among the Slavs in the old USSR, but not with the Moslems. 
"Victory" in the Chechen war is one of the pillars of the Putin myth, so he can't cut off Ramzan.  A lot of Russians, including a  lot of the "Siloviky," the "power" guys from the "special services" and military, hate Kadyrov and have questioned whether Russia really won the war  Some of the "new nationalists" even call Putin "the president of Chechnya."  
... Chechens act pretty Checheny in Moscow and the residents aren't happy about it:  Some FSB officers have had enough--I haven't seen anything on what happened to the striking officers, though: ... 
"A group of Federal Security Service officers has gone on strike to protest the release of Chechen policemen who had been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and torturing a Moscow resident, opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported Monday....  But policemen working for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov often have special permissions that allow them to travel around Russia with weapons and without many restrictions on their actions, said Andrei Soldatov, a well-known authority on Russia's security forces."
"The Chechen men implicated in the case are members of a bodyguard regiment for Kadyrov that is permanently stationed at the President Hotel in Moscow and protects the leader on trips to the capital, according to the Novaya Gazeta report. The hotel is located in front of the Interior Ministry building and is managed by the Office for Presidential Affairs." 
It seems to this observer as though a post in the “Kadyrov guard” is a cushy job—Kadyrov may use the posts as a rewards for his people, who get to move to Moscow with official papers, work for the boss when he is in town, then make money off of extortion schemes when he is not). ... 
This may be the origin of the stories we have seen since the wave of protests began on a contingent of Chechen gunmen being stationed in Moscow in case the Kremlin needed them to put down a rebellion—the thought being that local officers might balk at the task, something that did happen in the Russian Far East when higher tariffs for imported cars sparked protests.   
But we had been hearing that Putin might use the Chechens in such a capacity for years before that.  Recall that the anti-Putin “new nationalists” call VVP “the president of Chechnya”—resentments run deep concerning the costs of the war in Chechnya and the privileges the Kadyrov regime enjoys.  ... 

My vague hunch is that Chechens could come in pretty handy for starting a fight. But for ending a war, I wouldn't bet against the Russian people.

37 comments:

5371 said...

If the Upper West Side is about to conquer America, then yes, the "Russian opposition" is about to overthrow Putin :-)

gubbler, champion of all things checheny(except criminality, corruption, and bride-stealing) said...

I have a theory. Chechens are the product of Nazi experiment that interbred the SS with gypsies.

Gould O.K. Brownlee said...

"But for ending a war, I wouldn't bet against the Russian people."

True that. When the Russians first began to participate in mainstream European power games in the early 18th century, they surprised a lot of hard to surprise people.

First they held their own and finally defeated the Swedes in the Great Northern War. At the time, the Swedes were the very definition of military excellence. Everyone feared them.

Then in the Seven Years Ware they went up against the Prussians under Frederick the Great; the Prussians being the new standard of military excellence.

Everyone was surprised by the Russians because they simply didn't know when they were beaten. They refused to BE beaten. Frederick's generals all were astounded at the toughness and staying power of a Russian Army that simply refused to run away or surrender after taking devastating casualties.

The Russian example is grim and sad, but at the same time it is sublime.

Simon in London said...

My impression is that Putin's priority is the Russian Empire, with the wellbeing of the Russian People secondary at best. This fits with his modelling himself on those Germanised Tsars like Peter the Great. So he's willing to use Chechens against Russians, just as he's willing to use Russians against Chechens.
He's done some bad things vis-a-vis the Russian People, but overall his rule seems to have been better for them than most of our Western ruling regimes have been for us.

spandrell said...

At least you can count on the Chechens to stay sober.

Anonymous said...

http://youtu.be/CPujNmJyrAM?t=5m36s

He looks like Uncle Harry.

Luke Lea said...

Interesting possibility. How could you find out? Surely the US government would have to be aware.

elvisd said...

This may be the origin of the stories we have seen since the wave of protests began on a contingent of Chechen gunmen being stationed in Moscow in case the Kremlin needed them to put down a rebellion—

Reminds me a bit of a famous Corsican gunman being stationed in Paris to put down a rebellion in 1795.

If the Upper West Side is about to conquer America, then yes, the "Russian opposition" is about to overthrow Putin :-)

Good one.

anony-mouse said...

You can be as drunk as US Grant and still win a war if you've got a lot of young males to command.

Yes Russians in the past beat a lot of countries in the past (after taking huge losses).

Oops, no more huge amounts of young men.

(And do I have to remind everyone, the Chechens aren't the first people of the Caucassus to create a ruler of Russia).

Cyril said...

Chechens are the most boring crazy people on the planet.

Chicago said...

Putin needs the Kadyrov Chechens to fight the other Chechens, the breakaway Islamists. In return allowances must be made for their continued service and loyalty. In the background looms the Stalin experience so the Kadyrov people probably consider staying officially within Russia but with little interference in local affairs to be the most realistic option. Xinhuanet.com (Chinese) reported that in the last week twelve Chechens fighting with the rebels were killed in Syria. So what's the life expectancy of male Chechens anyway? Do any get old enough to have grey hair?
Conscript forces may not be reliable enough to shoot down their own people. The American military fits the bill for that by being all volunteer. It's also multi-racial. Thus black troops can be used in white areas against, say, Southerners; Hispanic troops from one part of the country can be used against whites or blacks in other parts. Then there's all the mercenaries who've worked for the various security contractors over the years; they're probably reliable and will shoot anybody they're paid to shoot.

Anonymous said...

Following Steve's logic here, I suppose we will see US Presidents packing the FBI and Secret Service with Mexican immigrants.

Anonymous said...

Wait the US army is multi-racial? How'd the army of a multi-racial nation end up multi-racial. Never mind that when you dig into the actual combat units they are pretty white. Sounds like another case for cartoon hero isteve

Deep state conspiracy
You can't hide from me
My name is Steve Sailer
Don't trust the king's tailor
He Suffers from vertigo
Thinks everyone looks like Mark Ruffalo

Anonymous said...

"Then there's all the mercenaries who've worked for the various security contractors over the years; they're probably reliable and will shoot anybody they're paid to shoot."

Heh, they are about as likely to shoot the guy paying them and take his place.

Kibernetika said...

Interesting, but Putin doesn't need any outside help, IMHO. Kadyrov's cadres ultimately amount to nothing more than a wild band of slogan-shouting, gold-wearing brigands, and the better trained Russian units could squash them like bugs, time zero. They'd use more colorful terminology, of course :)


Hunsdon said...

Spandrell: No, you can't trust the Chechens to stay sober. Not at all. They're not that kind of Muslim.

Anonymous said...

"Yes Russians in the past beat a lot of countries in the past (after taking huge losses).

Oops, no more huge amounts of young men." The Axis to Soviet losses ratio in WWII: 1 to 1.3. Granted, the Sovs had a much easier time smashing through the Italians, Romanians, Hungarians and a few unlucky Bulgarians outside Stalingrad in 1942. But nonetheless, even if the German to Soviet ratio is 1.4 or 1.5 the Russians did not just hurtl bazillions of guys at the Wehrmacht. In fact, they took more fatalities rather than surrenders (in other words, greater willingness to stand and die rather than give up, but maybe by that time rumors were getting out that the Nazis were starving the Soviet POWs) in 1942 than in 1941.

And by 1944-45 the Sovs were losing 1 to 1 and coming on like an earthquake -- in no small part thanks to American locomotives and trucks.

Ex Submarine Officer said...

The Soviets executed 15000 of their own troops at Stalingrad (Beevor). A lot of this was for unwillingness to fight, self-inflicted wounds, and attempts to surrender.

Much of the unwillingness to surrender was due to NKVD units stationed right behind Red Army lines to fire on their own troops if they did not want to advance or attempted to surrender.

About 20% of the 200k troops surrounded at Stalingrad were Russians working and even fighting for the Germans.

Even after the Germans were surrounded there, the still continued to get Russians crossing over to their side and who were very surprised to find out that the Germans were indeed surrounded. They thought it was just Red Army propaganda.

The first couple of years of the Eastern front, there was plenty of willingess of Russians to surrender. Only after Stalingrad, when it looked like the Germans weren't going to win did this stuff start to abate - nobody wants to join a losing team and then face the commissars.

Lets not rewrite history here. If the Russians had anything special, it was a willingness to deal with their own people nearly or even completely as brutally with the enemy. And even before WWII began, this was very evident in the purges, the collectivization, the Holodomor, etc.

ogunsiron said...

Hunsdon said...
Spandrell: No, you can't trust the Chechens to stay sober. Not at all. They're not that kind of Muslim.
===
In Morocco, the gov. recently raised the tax on beer. I found it pretty hilarious that some representatives in their parliament ( rubber stamp parliament since it's a monarchy) were protesting against the new tax, arguing that the common man needed his beer after a hard day's work. Kinda funny for a muslim country. A lot of muslims are pretty loose when it comes to the whole alcohol thing. I've noticed that the only haram item that even the loosest of muslims won't touch is pork.

Anonymous said...

In America, sophisticated elite protect foreign thugs.

In post-soviet Russia, foreign thugs protect sophisticated elite!

Sorry, couldn't resist after reading your Yakov Smirnoff formula. Delete it if it's too lame.

-The Judean People's Front

Anonymous said...

Chechenka eating checheny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXVMWGcW-d4

Mitchell said...

http://themoscownews.com/news/20130528/191555324/Ex-Kremlin-ideologist-declines-Kadyrovs-offer-to-run-Chechnya.html

Don't miss that Surkov himself is half-Chechen.

Peter the Shark said...

" But for ending a war, I wouldn't bet against the Russian people."

I would. Russia's military prowess is very overrated. Look at the wars they lost - almost every minor conflict in the last 150 years has ended in disaster or farce - the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, the attempted invasion of Poland in 1920, and the Finno-Soviet war. All characterized by weak officers, poor logistics, badly trained soldiers, and bad tactics. People also overlook the fact that Russia managed to basically lose WWI despite being allied with the winning side. The pressure of fighting a weak Austria-Hungary and a German Empire that had to devote most of its resources to the Western Front was still enough to cause Russia to collapse internally, and eventually sign a very unequal peace at Brest-Litovsk. WW2 is the one big military victory the Russians can claim, but as "Ex Submarine Officer" points out above, that was a victory won almost as much against its own people as the Germans. In many ways the "Great Patriotic War" was simultaneously a second civil war requiring Stalin to devote considerable energy to fighting Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatars, and other malcontent Soviet citizens. If the Nazis had been less evil to the local populations, the USSR might easily have suffered the same fate in 1942 as the Russian Empire in 1917.

Hunsdon said...

Ex Sub Officer said: Lets not rewrite history here.

Hunsdon said: Stalin was, what's that word again? An outlier.

Russian military competence, particularly on the defense, was legend before Stalin was even a gleam in his daddy's eye.

Yes, the Japanese ran the table on them in 1905 (Battle of Tsushima Straits, anyone?), but Custer got served at Greasy Grass, too, as far as that goes.

BB said...

Chechens have a plan. First Russia, then the world!
Mind you, I´d rather be ruled by Kamyrov than by Hillary!
Except if she´s played by Scarlett Johansson like in the biopic "Rodham".(Bill Clinton wasn´t that lucky. Hillary was never attractive, not even at age seventeen!)

Anonymous said...

Russians have two big advantages against other European powers - aside from any intrinsic qualities - there are a lot of them and Russia is very big.

Anonymous said...

Thinks everyone looks like Mark Ruffalo

How often has Steve used that? Once Twice?

Thomas O. Meehan said...

Otto von Bismark said, "Russia is never either as weal or as strong as she appears." I think he was right.

Captain Tripps said...

Well, this is RUSSIA after all. I’m willing to bet all of Mark Zuckerberg’s billions that Mr. V. Putin has 4-5 FSS dudes watching each one of these Chechen “Security Detail” guys like hawks, with On Order instructions to terminate with extreme prejudice as required. Putin will tolerate Kadyrov’s antics as long as he’s a useful idiot. I’m sure he views Kadyrov as an amusing buffoon who keeps his gorillas in line, for now. Once he ceases being a useful idiot, well, then you know what comes next.

Peter the Shark said...

"Russian military competence, particularly on the defense, was legend before Stalin was even a gleam in his daddy's eye."

I know Russians like to pretend WWI never happened, but it's shocking how ignorant Westerners are about Russia's utter incompetence in that war. Or ask any Finn about "Russian military competence" - they will laugh in your face.

Anonymous said...

If us recognized chechnya on 1994 none of this mess would have happened and we will not hear too much about russia either.

gubbler, champion of all things checheny(except criminality, corruption, and bride-stealing) said...

Imagine if chechen IQ were 115.
It'd be like Ace Rothstein and Nicky Santoro rolled into one. CASINO.

Chechutzpah would be too much.

Anonymous said...

"How many times has Steve even used that."


Certainly fewer times than I've made posts alluding to it so fair point.

Kibernetika said...

@Mitchell

Cool reference. Your post made me remember that Surkov inspired a special Runet (Russian internet) meme. It started when some anti-Putin activists were coming out of the US Embassy and confronted by TV crews. The activists said that criticism of their meeting with newly-minted Ambassador McFaul was merely more spin/propaganda from Surkov.

Diplomat McFaul has often been undiplomatic.

It became common punchline: Eto surkovskaia propaganda.

McFaul may be intelligent and one of the intellectually beautiful people from State, but on the ground he's done some stupid things.

Surkov's an incredibly cunning guy, a modern-day Machiavelli or something. He didn't reach his position by failing upwards.

Kibernetika said...

Regarding the effectiveness of the Soviet/Russian military:

My grandfather, uncles and cousins fought on the Eastern Front in both wars. From 1914 to 1945 (and beyond!). My pops used to tell me about watching the German troop build-up for the Polish campaign.

Then pops came to the states and became more American than any of us here.

Anyway, I now need a Russian visa to visit my father's first home.

From my perspective the Russian military has been rather effective.

But the differences between our modern US mil and the Russian are pretty striking. Mostly because the Russian mil relies so much on conscription. They have the same problems with human capital that we have, but are less discriminating. It's safe to say that most of us Americans don't really grok these things.

Simon in London said...

Peter the Shark said...
"Or ask any Finn about "Russian military competence" - they will laugh in your face."

Given that Finland was the only country to fight Russia in WW2 that didn't get wiped off the map, that's really not saying much.

Anonymous said...

The Latvian Regiment after the Bolshevik Revolution was one of the few disciplined and organized fighting forces in Russia. The Bolsheviks ruthlessly used them in the Cheka and the Red Army to crush ethnic Russians who really are a bunch of useless drunks.
Maybe the Putin intends to keep the Chechens for such a role.