Paying for War in Chechnya

Source: Moscow Times
Date: April 26, 2001
By Pavel Felgenhauer


Russian troops began the "antiterrorist operation" against separatist forces in Chechnya in 1999 at the same time as the Defense Ministry was preparing a special all-volunteer airborne brigade to serve as peacekeepers in Kosovo under NATO command. Russian peacekeepers in Yugoslavia are paid lavishly in comparison with troops serving at home - up to $1,000 per month. In the fall of 1999, President Vladimir Putin announced that the solders fighting "terrorists" would be paid no less - up to 950 rubles per day (more than $30).

In fact, many kontrakniki who enlisted to serve in the Balkans in 1999 were sent instead to fight in the Caucasus. Later it became customary to send to Kosovo soldiers who had already served a tour in Chechnya. Among Russian airborne forces, a tour as peacekeeper in Kosovo or Bosnia is considered a well-paid vacation that must first be earned in the slime of Chechen.

But the Russian force in Kosovo is only 3,616 men and the Bosnia contingent numbers some 1,500 more: In Chechnya, at the height of the fighting last year, there were over 100,000 servicemen. Perhaps back in 1999 the Kremlin really thought that the war in Chechnya would be over quickly and the bill for extra pay wouldn't amount to that much. However, as the campaign has dragged on, the tab has ballooned to about 3 billion rubles ($110 million) per month.

Finance Ministry officials say that in fiscal year 2000 the extra-budgetary expenditure on the war in Chechnya amounted to 60 billion rubles ($2.2 billion). Some 30 billion rubles was spent on extra pay, 7 billion on "reconstruction of Chechnya" and the rest on extra equipment procurement, supplies, transportation of troops and so on.

The extra-budgetary expenditure on operations in the North Caucasus in 1999 adds some 30 billion rubles more to the total. Today the war in Chechnya is in its third fiscal year with total costs fast approaching $4 billion. But even that doesn't give the whole story. The official exchange rate does not fully reflect the real purchasing power of the ruble, which was grossly undervalued after the sharp devaluation in 1998. The corrected dollar equivalent of all extra-budgetary expenses on the "antiterrorist operation" in Chechnya may be estimated to be at least $10 billion - a cost that Russia can hardly afford.

The Finance Ministry has been trying to get a grip on this growing bill. Putin has announced that beginning in May, extra combat pay will be abolished and replaced by a cheaper system of bonuses. But will this solve the problem?

Since 1994 Russia has been fighting an intermittent war in Chechnya without any serious procurement of heavy equipment or munitions. Instead the Defense Ministry has each time dipped deeper and deeper into Soviet Cold War stocks.

The troops in Chechnya have made extensive use of heavy artillery, and this has severely depleted munitions stockpiles, as there has been no serial production of heavy shells in Russia for a decade. During the 1994-96 Chechen war, officers complained that they were using shells produced in the 1980s. In the present conflict, shells produced in the 1970s and even the 1960s have been supplied to the front. It has been reported that in December 1999 the government released 8 billion rubles ($285 million) for the purchase of new heavy shells, but the defense industry apparently has not yet managed to resume serial production.

Reports from Chechnya say that Russian troops are running out of ammunition for the most-used heavy gun - the 122mm D-30 howitzer. One of the remedies being considered by the General Staff is to bring the pre-World War II M-30 122mm howitzer out of strategic storage. Millions of rounds of shells for this weapon have been kept in storage since the 1940s.

It is often said that wars speed up military-technical progress. In the North Caucasus, the opposite is happening. The army is degrading both morally and technically. Bad training, badly organized logistical support and constant marauding by the troops is producing poor discipline. Poor discipline and bad training means that equipment is badly maintained. The increasingly outdated equipment that is being used in Chechnya constantly breaks down even when it is properly managed. Outdated munitions misfire, killing and maiming troops and further affecting morale.

Today the armed forces in Chechnya are trapped in a vicious cycle of degradation. And Putin's new pay scheme isn't going to do anything to break it.

Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent, Moscow-based defense analyst.

troops from Chechnya (September 2, 1996). The campaign of Chechnya 1994-1996 is closed.

After the death of Dudayev, the Chechen resistance splits up quickly in several tens of autonomous armed groups, everyone controling its own territory. Chechnya is transformed into a loose coalition of feudal fiefs in the style of the Middle Ages. Moscow has more and more difficulties negotiating. After being elected Chechen President (January 27, 1997), Aslan Maskhadov will never manage to impose his control on all armed formations. Two factors explain the second Russian intervening in Chechnya (since 1999): kidnapping and trade of the human beings that was generalized on the Chechen territory and the aggression of Daghestan by Chechen wahhabis.

The campaign of Daghestan and the Chechnya's second war (1999-2001)

The first serious clashes between Russian forces and Chechen fighters occur in the Northern Daghestan (May 28, 1999). The Chechen fighters of Khattab resume the fighting and get in the Northern Daghestan in several places (June 2, 1999). The Chechen incursion is repeated (June 17, 1999). Daghestani wahhabis, helped by Chechen fighters, announce the introduiction of the sharia in their villages: Echeda, Gakko, Guigatl and Avgali, that they proclaim an "Islamic territory" (August 1st, 1999). Fights begin between Russian soldiers and Chechen fighters near to Echeda (August 3, 1999). Several hundreds of Chechen Islamists cross the Daghestani border and seize of the villages Ansalta and Rakhata (August 7, 1999). The Daghestanis create militias and resist to the Chechen incursion. Fights rage in the environs of Ansalta, Rakhata and Tando (August 19-21, 1999). The federals dislodge Islamists from the Daghestani villages Tando, Rakhata, Shadroda, Ansalta, Ziberkali and Ashino (August 24, 1999). The Chechen rebels withdraw to Chechnya. The new Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin goes to Daghestan (August 28, 1999). The federal forces launch an attack against a wahhabi stronghold in Daghestan (Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi) (August 29 - September 3, 1999).

A series of bomb attacks occurs in Moscow (August 31, 1999), in Buynaksk (Daghestan) (September 4, 1999), again in Moscow (September 9, 1999), another time in Moscow (September 13, 1999), and in Volgodonsk (September 16, 1999). Putin states that the terrorists hide on the Chechen territory and are supported by Chechen extremist forces of (September 15, 1999). While speaking about the terrorists, the prime minister says he is ready "to pull up this abomination with roots".

Finally the federals push back the Bassayev's and Khattab's rebels toward Chechnya. The Russian forces are concentrateted near to its border (September 21, 1999). The Russian Air Force bomb the Grozny's airport and 15 Chechen villages (September 23, 1999). Poutin affirms that the Russian forces will pursue terrorists and pronounce the sentence that makes him famous: "If they hide in the toilets, we will bump off them in the bog" (September 24, 1999).

The federal troops enter in Chechnya (September 30, 1999), and gain 5-30 kms of its territory (October 2-3, 1999). The federals occupy all the left bank of Terek (October 5, 1999), seize Garagorski (October 15), and approach Grozny (October 29, 1999). The Afghan talibans offer a military and financial help to the Chechen, whereas Albanians of Kosovo cross Georgia to rejoin the Chechen fighters (late October 1999).

An anti-Maskhadov's opposition is formed in Chechnya around the Chechen mufti Akhmad Kadyrov, that gave to the federals without fighting Gudermes, and the former mayor of Grozny, Beslan Gantemirov, freed recently from a Russian prison (November 6, 1999). Gantemirov begins to form the Chechen militias that will fight on the sides of the federals during the battle for Grozny (November 30, 1999).

The Russian victorious advance continues in Chechnya. The federal forces take Asinovskaya (November 12, 1999), Bamut (November 12, 1999), Novy-Sharoy (November 16, 1999), Achkhoy-Martan (November 19, 1999), Argun (December 3, 1999) and Urus-Martan (December 8, 1999). The battle for Grozny begins (December 13, 1999), intensify (December 24, 1999). The assault widespreads (December 26). The federals progress slowly in Grozny (December 28). At the same time, the rebels launch a counteroffensive in Argun and Shali (January 9, 2000) that ends in a failure. The battle for Grozny ends by a retreat of the city by the rebels, but they are conducted toward minefields: about hundred fighters are killed or mutilated (February 6-7, 2000).

Rebels launch a new counteroffensive in Komsomolskoye (March 5-10, 2000) and resume guerrilla warfare. Thus, in ambushes made by Chechen, 43 Russian soldiers (March 29, 2000) and 15 soldiers are killed (April 23, 2000). A truck full of explosives and conducted by a kamikaze commando (two Chechen women), explodes in Alkhan-Yurt, killing 17 Russian soldiers, according to the separatists (June 7, 2000).

Poutine appoints the Chechen mufti Akhmad Kadyrov as administrator of Chechnya (June 12, 2000). Guerrilla warfare continues in Summer and Fall 2000. In December 2000, the Russian forces launch an important offensive in the mountains, carrying a deadly strike against the rebels.

The actuality

The present situation is like the situation in 1995. The guerrilla is entrenched in mountains (chiefs of war Shamil Bassayev and Khattab), whereas a pro-Russian Chechen administration is formed in the plain. Analyzing the two personnalities of this administration Beslan Gantemirov and Akhmad Kadyrov, we can conclude that they are pro-Russian only strategically. As other Chechen chiefs of war, they have got their own armed formations, recruited in theirs teypes (clans), and their own strongholds (Urus-Martan for Gantemirov, Gudermes for Kadyrov).

Beslan Gantemirov, who is again appointed mayor of Grozny is a separatist militant from 1991. In 1991 during the Chechen revolution he commanded the National Guards on the side of Dudayev, who later appointed him mayor of Grozny. However, Gantemirov passes to the anti-Dudayev opposition in 1993 after the conflict about the oil income. He unites around him most of the armed forces of the anti-Dudayev opposition and participates in assaults against Grozny in Fall 1994. After having collaborated in the pro-Russian Chechen administration, in 1995, he is arrested, judged and convicted to jail in Moscow. He is freed in 1999 and forms the Chechen militia, that participate in the assault of Grozny. Gantemirov has bad relations with Kadyrov, with whom he shared zones of influence (Grozny being under the control of Gantemirov, Gudermes is controlled by Kadyrov).

Adept of Sufism, Akhmad Kadyrov is a longstanding sworn enemy of wahhabis. The first armed clashes between wahhabis and Soufis take place in Gudermes in July 1998. In summer 1999, Kadyrov created a tariqatist regiment (Soufi) to fight against wahhabi threat in Chechnya. It is difficult to suspect Kadyrov of pro-Russian feelings, because he personnaly fought against the federals in 1994-1996. During some episodes, he supported the Chechen President Maskhadov in his opposition to Movladi Udougov, ideologist of a Chechen-Daghestani Islamist "Nation of Islam", and to Shamil Bassayev, who supported militarily this movement. But, during the Bassayev's incursion into Daghestan, Maskhadov doesn't disapprove of it, and when the federal troops enter in Chechnya, he allieswith the wahhabis. However, Kadyrov, dismissed by Maskhadov, goes to Daghestan, where he begs pardon to Daghestani brothers. The separation becomes more important after the rapprochement of Maskhadov with Gulf's oil-monarchies and with Pakistan, who probably finance the Chechen resistance. Maskhadov and Yandarbiev in 1999 and 2000 visit many times these countries, but also Turkey, where, it seems, their families took refuge.

In early 2001, Moscow stopped all talks with Maskhadov and refused to recognize him as Chechen president. At the same time, some Chechen groupings insist on the organization of Chechen presidential elections in order to elect a legitimate president, with whom Moscow would be able to negotiate. Boris Nemtsov, leader of the Union of the Right Forces, proposes his plan of settlement of the crisis in Chechnya. He proposes to transform Chechnya from presidential republic into a parliamentary republic, where all teypes (clans) would be represented, because the president cannot be elected democratically by all the Chechen, who are dominated by clan's interests. According to Nemtsov, the Chechen government have also to represent the teypes (clans). He thinks that it is necessary to appoint provisionally as administrative chief of Chechnya a Governor-General, like in the czarist time.

Boris Nemtsov also proposes the partition of Chechnya, into plain and mountain. The first part would be included in the Territory of Stavropol, the second part would be proclaimed a "rebel territory", that would be surrounded by a unpenetrable border. This proposition to divide Chechnya in two parts has been already made in 1991 by the Russian Nobel Prize Winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and evoked repeatedly by Cossack leaders in 1996, 1997 and 1998. In summer 2000, a former mayor of Moscow Gavriil Popov spoke about the partition. This only solution to the Chechen conflict is not yet approved by the Russian administration, that tries to stamp out the guerrilla warfare by closing the border with Georgia and by introducing the visa principle for the Georgian citizens going to Russia.

The Kistins, Chechen ethnic group of Georgia, have been evoked very often like separatists' rear guard. Medias affirm that Khattab plans to create a wahhabi enclave in the Pankisskoye Gorge in Georgia, where the Kistins live. Observers indicate that Khattab's fighters control 17 villages in this zone, adjacent to Chechnya, while proclaiming their capital a village of Duisi. An islamist movement Al-Kharameyne counts on Khattab in the propagation of the wahhabism in Caucasus following the same script as the talibans in Afghanistan. The Chechen fighters control the Pankisskoye Gorge since 1998, and projected in summer 2000 to proclaim the autonomy of the Georgian Akhmety District (where the Kistins live), but decided to delay this project.

Finally the only solution to the Chechen conflict proceeds in two stages. The first stage consists in collaboration with the plain's teypes (clans) (which is in part realized after the recruitment of Kadyrov and of Gantemirov). The second consists in the partition of Chechnya, by isolation of its mountainous part with the rebels that are entrenched there.

Part 1


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