Sunday, September 05, 2004

Beslan: Russian for 'Madrid'

WaPo: The Russian government admitted Sunday that it lied to its people about the scale of the hostage crisis that ended with more than 300 children, parents and teachers dead in southern Russia.

Just like in Madrid, the first response of the goverment is to lie, downplay and cover-up. Now that the public knows the scale of the horror and who the villains are, people are going to be pissed, just like in Spain. I mean super-fucking-crazy pissed. Not just at the jihadist (most of whom are dead) but also at the government for not revealing the extent of the attack and for having no real response. The Russian Special Forces (which I guess are 'special' like kids who eat paste are 'special') were clearly unprepared to assault a civilain soft target held by armed terrorists even after the debacle at the Moscow theater. Did they think it would never happen again? Don't they practice or plan?

Now Putin is in deep shit. He has to respond in a way that the average Russian can see and appreciate. No Spanish-style flakiness for Vladimir. He can't just arrest a few (or a few hundred) Islamists and call it a wrap. The Russians aren't going to stand for people just going to prison over this. But what else is left? Yeltsin already tried a scorched earth policy in Chechnya. Remember Gronzny in 1996? An urban battlefield of bombed out ruins and refugees in rags.

What options does Putin have? As the Belmont Club posts the army is poorly equipped and underfunded. They don't have the kind of high-tech arsenal of the U.S., much less the highly trained and disciplined troops. They have less-than state of the art military hardware and a bunch of poorly paid 19-year old draftees.

Whatever the response you can bet it will not be nuanced or subtle.

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