Monday, March 29, 2010

Moscow: Terrorist Tools for Flat-Out Gangsters

My heart goes out to the victims, friends and family, transit officials, and law enforcement in Moscow today. Two suicide bombers entered two different Moscow stations and killed themselves and so far 35 others. It is suspected, but not confirmed, that the two women were working for Chechen separatists. The linked article gives a very good history of terrorist attacks in Russia--well worth a look.

Chechen Separatists
This is another war over money, not nationalism or separatism or even ideology. The Chechen separatists are bandits. Yes, they are Muslim. They would be anything at all, if it helped them run this insurgency.  What is the money tree here? There are three:
1. Oil pipelines into Russia from the Caspian region. These gangsters could hold up or steal significant amounts of oil and gas distribution up for the western part of the Russian Federation and Europe.
2. To this, add the opium drug trade from Afghanistan and
3. the human trafficking from all points East to West.

That's right. That's how Europe gets its heroin, its immigrant labor, and its sex laborers, and one way it has more difficulty getting fuel.

Chechnya sits on top of Westernizing Azerbaijan and Georgia, more or less, with Dagestan (another troubled state) to the East. Then Georgia periodically fights factions from Ingushetia and Ossetia. Karbadino-Balkaria also wants a separate nation. These states, if separated, would immediately become failed states. They don't have anything except this pipeline and railroad infrastructure, and a chance to extort from both North and South.

During the early oilfield development of the Caspian, after the USSR went bust, the Chechen Wars were funded by tapping pipelines. A lot of them blew up from inexpert tapping or were bombed during the [recapture] of Chechnya. The independent oil field execs and the Russian economic advisors were pulling their hair out, trying to honor contracts while all this was going on. Russia eventually built an entirely new stretch of pipeline, a grand detour, to avoid Chechnya altogether for one route, but it cannot avoid Chechnya altogether.
Further Security Issues
Those with a bigger map will see that the Caspian is East of Dagestan. This is an area with more than one former Soviet state (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan) and to the South is the Big One: Iran.

Russia patrols the Caspian where the Iranians don't. They control the trade. Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan do not need exported security problems; Turkmenistan is a graft paradise, incapable of nearly everything. Kazakhstan is huge with oil and gas, but also uranium. So is Tajikistan. How are the Iranians getting their uranium? And how will we ever know?

I suspect Russia sells uranium to Iran too. But better to have Russia do it and keep track, then a loosely-congregated gang of bandits running the northern stretch of the Caspian Sea, not keeping track, and letting everything and anybody through for a price.

The people that died today in Moscow died terribly. In a way they died for the greed of bandits. And in another way, they are casualties of a war against nuclear proliferation and for stability in Central Asia--and indeed the world.
Map: Global security dot org. If you check there, be advised--its cyber-security is not good. The second map is available around, in this case from oped news dot com.


Bob G. said...

Maybe this is the "wake-up" call Russia needs, however heinous the situation.

Once in a while, we all need a "good, swift kick in our complacency".

My prayers and thoughts are also with the families of the victims.

The Observer said...

Ann T
If you look in the dictionary under "FUBAR" this situation comes up. Moscow really has a problem on their hands with the Chechens. Nice look back on how this "eff'ed" state came about.
The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob and The Observer,
It's nearly an intractable situation now. But we may get a breakthrough yet,

Ann T.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the insight into a very bad situation. I've learned something, no, a lot acutally once again!

Slamdunk said...

Good analysis Ann T. Despite the appearance, the instability there is real.

On a side note, I gave you two blog awards over at my place if you accept such things:

Enjoy your day.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
Once I attended a round table at the Brookings Institution on Russia. Everyone at the table was going on, citing facts and comparisons, that Russia was a huge threat (I forget the issue now, probably oil to Europe) except this one very dry, very over-it panelist. Finally it was his turn.

'Ha! Russia isn't an outsized power,' he told us. 'They have money. They don't have an economy. There's a difference.'

Sometimes I wonder if I was the only person who heard him in the room, because everything else went as before.

I'm going to post on him, thanks for reminding me!

And Thanks for the awards! I will clear a space on my electronic mantel for them very soon!

Ann T.

Anonymous said...

It should serve as a wake-up call to us as well.

Ann T. said...

Dear Tgace,
You are right. Sometimes Bunkermeister at Sergeant Says blog talks about this, but it doesn't come up (in a practical sense) as often as it should.

Non-practitioners do discuss it and then just go right back to la-la land. Frequently.

Thanks for writing in,
Ann T.