Where we left off, Krutikov is analyzing why the assassins were able to get to Zakharchenko so easily. Root causes include the irregular and informal culture of these unrecognized entities, their birthing under conditions of popular uprising and revolt, living in a state of “partizanshchina“, as the Russians call it, which takes quite a while to gel into more serious institutional formats. And Krutikov doesn’t mention Igor Strelkov at all, but those of us who were following this conflict from the beginning, can recall the true anarchy and even comical absurdities that reigned during those first months of the Donbass uprising. In addition to the horrors of war, there was also some pretty zany stuff going on. I myself wrote some humbly humorous blogposts, including this one, and also commented sarcastically on the similarity of Girkin-era Slavyansk with Basil Fawlty in his Fawlty Towers. Compared to those shenanigans, Zakharchenko was a stuffed shirt. But still refused to change his core life-style and make of himself a captive to his own bodyguards.
In the arena of root causes, Krutikov also touches on the “romantic hero” aspect of these conflicts, and the need of the rebel supporters to see their leader fearless on the battlefield. A manly man, a true “muzhyk” as the Russians say, riding boldly at the vanguard of the charge, and not cowering in the rear; nor scurrying around the deck to avoid bullets, as in the case of Captain Queeg! This is actually nothing new; one only has to utter the name Che Guevara. In Russian, these types are called “Field Commanders”; even if they were not initially professional military, they earned their medals and ranks quite honestly, right out there on the battlefield.
Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Witch Hunting
Now from root causes to immediate causes, and this is where Zakharchenko’s bodyguards come in for their share of the blame. Krutikov feels that they could have been more vigilant; they could have “sneakily” conducted more scouting of the routes and perimeters, even without Zakharchenko’s approval. Obviously not in the case where their leader had just taken a spontaneous decision to go strolling off somewhere. But whenever there was actually some time to poke around beforehand, it might have behooved them…
Another issue is one of trust. As a young and unrecognized government, the DPR does not possess a foolproof method of verifying cadres, doing background checks, etc. Krutikov uses the term “brigadization”, which means converting a rebel rabble into a regular army. This is a slow and difficult process. To this day the DPR has not been able to put into place a fully functioning modern counter-intel and government security force. This will come in time, but not there yet. Baby steps. The DPR has a population of around a million, sort of the unofficial minimum for building a viable statelet. It is lacking in qualified cadres, and the locals must not and cannot count on supplementing their ranks with Russian volunteers. Also, those who attempt to inculcate standards and “bureaucratic” norms are often criticized as deviating from the “peoples” character of the uprising and war.
Krutikov recommends to the DPR, grieving for their leader, that they use this sad occasion to rethink some of their philosophical and institutional underpinnings. Don’t start witch hunts nor repressions, he suggests; don’t blame nor punish the “lax” security guards. Don’t fall into that trap. Heads should not be rolling; heads should be thinking. Let’s face it, there is more than enough blame to go around. Instead of pointing the finger at others, focus on fixing what is broken and trying to do better next time. The DPR needs to get its act together and move on from the “romantic rebel” shtick to a more pragmatic way of living life and waging war. Because, sadly, war is also part of life.
Direct translation of Krutikov’s final paragraph:
Yes, Alexander Zakharchenko was, in many respects, a romantic and took his role as that of a “popular” and not a bureaucratic leader. But it has been understood for quite a long time, that the peoples republics have, in Ukraine, a serious and unprincipled enemy, in the struggle against whom, any excess “romanticism” can prove to be fatal. All the more is it necessary to observe a pragmatism of behavior, including the habits of daily life. There is nothing shameful for a commander or politician to have a suite of bodyguards. In war there are values that are worth more than “popularity” and personal traits of character.
Next: Zakharchenko’s widow addresses the grieving troops. In this traditional society with traditional gender roles, is this perhaps a sign that Natalia will now take on a bigger leadership role in the life of the tiny republic?
[to be continued]