Sunday, August 17, 2008

Russia's North Caucasus forces in Georgia are not "irregulars"

That the United States leadership does have some difficulty - one that's perhaps exacerbated by geographical distance - in being accurate about the situation on the ground in Georgia is underlined every so often the statements it issues, phrases of which are then seized on by the media and widely reproduced. Quite recently, for example, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza referred to"the North Caucasus irregular forces that the Russian military inexplicably encouraged to enter South Ossetia to murder, rape and steal." As Norbert Strade has pointed out,

these North Caucasian units aren't "irregular forces". E.g. the "Chechen" Vostok and Zapad regiments are *fully regular Russian units* under the command of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. They don't do anything without orders from - or at least the collusion of - their command in Moscow. If these units are murdering, raping and stealing in Georgia, they are doing so because they have been sent there in order to do so (as Mr. Bryza implies himself). Furthermore, this isn't "inexplicable". It's the classical way to carry out an ethnic cleansing, and that's what they are deployed for and what their gang leaders in the Russian administration want to get done. If anything is "irregular" here, it's the Russian armed forces as such and the misunderstanding that they are a modern institution that does its bloody work according to the established rules of warfare. The world has such a short memory, it has already forgotten the Russian behaviour in Chechnya while the war is still on.

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