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Russia's Incompetent War on Terror

In response to the recent wave of terrorist attacks, Vladimir Putin has demanded that even more power be vested in him. As leading Russian military expert Alexander Golts argues, the problem in Russia is not a lack of central power, but of power exercised incompetently and without individual initiative.

The slaughter by terrorists of hundreds of Russian children in Beslan was final proof - if more was needed - of the utter incompetence of Russia's military and security services. In Beslan, camouflaged men representing four ministries fussed uselessly, with no clear leader or goals, losing precious minutes when the violence erupted. Meanwhile, Nikolai Patrushev, the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB, the former KGB) and Rashid Nurgaliev, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), both sent to Beslan by President Vladimir Putin, were invisible as the tragedy unfolded.

So once again Russians must face how ineffective their military is. Indeed, none of Russia's power structures, including the military, the FSB, and the MVD, are capable of performing effective anti-terrorist operations.

Most Russians reached this conclusion long before the Beslan attack. In 2002, after terrorists took 800 theatergoers hostage, Putin ordered that an anti-terrorist component be added to Russia's military strategic plan. Some military analysts saw this as the beginning, at long last, of serious reforms, as the army was capable only of executing military operations in Russia's traditional way, i.e., using overwhelming force, as in WWII.