Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Daghestanis Want What Chechens Already Have -- Their Own Military Unit – and Moscow Should Form It, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 5 – Daghestanis want their own “Savage Division” like Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov already has, a military command consisting of ethnic units made up respectively of their own nationalities; and both because they are superb fighters and because they cause trouble in Russian units, they should be given one, Magomed Osmanov says.

            In the influential Voyennoye obozreniye, the North Caucasus expert says that Moscow must look beyond the troubles it has when it drafts Daghestanis into the Russian Army and recognize that “the Caucasians are very good fighters. And it is a sin not to use this resource” (topwar.ru/136889-dagestancy-v-armii-rassadnik-nenavisti-ili-kostyak-podrazdeleniy.html).

            “In the final analysis,” he continues, “’the Savage Division’ during World War I was one of the most militarily capable unit at the front.” Today, “Daghestanis also want their own ‘Savage Division’ like Kadyrov has … Look how successfully the Chechens have fought and are fighting in Ossetia, the Donbass and in Syria.”

            “’We are no worse’” than the Chechens, the Daghestanis say. Many of them fought in Afghanistan and returned with medals. Even more, Osmanov says, “to serve in ‘the Savage Division’ is the dream of every mountaineer” because is allows young men to show their skills and make money.

            If Moscow agreed to form “units consisting of a single nationality,” the expert says, then there wouldn’t be the kind of problems Russian commanders are having with Daghestanis now.  Indeed, he says, the new head of Daghestan, Vladimir Vasilyev, needs to take up this issue and move forward.

            Osmanov says that the time to do so is now because young Daghestanis now being drafted cause problems for officers and fellow soldiers from their very first days of service. They are more mature at 18 than Russians are at 25 and once in uniform “they are in fact the elder” and being physically stronger they intimidate both officers and men.

                Sometimes they attack other soldiers, Osmanov continues; but more often they intimidate officers, get them to make Daghestanis sergeants and allow them to rule over the other soldiers to give the officers a quiet life.  And all too many officers agree because they do not know how to command North Caucasians or recognize the problems they create by agreeing.

            Daghestanis who succeed in becoming sergeants in this way send messages home via the Internet: “’The whole unit is in our hand. We have broken everyone here, we are breaking them now, and we will continue to do so.’ That leads new draftees to assume that they can enter into the same game.

            Some in Moscow are proposing that the Russian Army stop drafting Daghestanis and other North Caucasians, Osmanov says; but that is the path to disaster. If Moscow doesn’t take these fighters, those in the hills opposing Moscow or ISIS will – and more will join their ranks because they will feel ignored and insulted.

            Instead, commanders need to understand four things: First, “draftees from Daghestan are a special risk group which requires special handling. Second, it must be made clear to them that any violations of the military rules will lead to criminal charges. Third, those who won’t adapt must be dismissed from the service. And fourth, Moscow needs to revive a special military police to control units where they are present.

            Otherwise, Osmanov says, there will continue to be cases where Daghestani soldiers attack other soldiers, seize military units and in effect take control of some military bases. That has happened far too often in the Russian Far East for comfort, and Moscow must step in to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

            In addition, the military expert says, commanders should not be in any hurry to put guns in the hands of Daghestanis. “They must earn them, and future officers must be taught when they are still in military training facilities how to work with Caucasian draftees.” Otherwise there will be more disasters ahead. 

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