FIRST CHECHEN WAR:
The Dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 presented an ideal opportunity for Chechnya to declare its independence. This amounted to Chechen and Ingush leaders signing an agreement which divided the joint Chechen-Ingush republic into separate states with Ingushetia joining the Russian Federation and Chechnya remaining independent. Chechen independence jeopardised Russian interests which were inclusive of Chechnya's capital Grozny, since the oil refining industry was of huge economic importance to Russia's economy. Furthermore, Russian acceptance of Chechen autonomy may set a precedence influencing other republics to move away from the Russian Federation. It was therefore of great national interest for the Russian Federation to maintain territorial integrity in order to preserve its economic interests.
The controversy surrounding Chechen independence ultimately escalated into small-scale civil war in 1992. The Russians covertly supported the opposition forces against the 'illegitimate' Chechen regime- a regime which was lead by a retired Russian Air Force General; Dzhokhar Dudayev.
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The First Chechen War was waged between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria which began in December 1994 and lasted until August 1996. The Russian Federation considered the conflict an opportunity to exhibit its 'Western-style' rapid deployment capabilities- which was aptly showcased by western forces during the ground offensive phase of the 1991 Gulf campaign. The successful use of Russia's 'mobile-forces' in Chechnya would therefore prove to be valuable for the then Russian Defence Minister; Pavel Grachev (Malek. M: 2009; 12).
Essential to the success of the Russian Federation's 'mobile-forces' was the strategic use of the Russian air force. This consisted wholly of aircraft which were considered- at least by western standards, to be obsolete since they lacked features such as radar and the 'all weather-day and night' capabilities which seriously limited air operations to daylight hours and within favourable operational weather, which was extraordinarily poor during much of the first campaign. Furthermore, in conjunction with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, so too came about the disintegration of essential military attributes due to heavy defence cuts.
These cuts culminated to a huge loss of professional soldiers leaving a vast quantity of ground forces to be comprised of conscripts whom were generally in military service simply because it was compulsory as opposed to wanting to serve like their professional counter-parts. Furthermore, Russian defence cuts attributed to a reduction in the quality of training and ultimately discipline which left the Russian military seriously deficient in terms of the required expertise in order to execute a successful counter-insurgency campaign, which in itself presented challenges since it is a relatively new concept of warfare.
After nearly two years of intense fighting and an estimated 100,000 deaths, the Khasavyurt ceasefire was signed and Russian troops were withdrawn from the republic drawing an end to the First Chechen War.
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SECOND CHECHEN WAR:
A series of bombings throughout Moscow and Volgodonsk which left 277 dead and brought violence to the streets of Russia, were said by the Russian authorities to be executed by Islamist militants (Evans, R.D: 2001; 34) and thus establishing the adequate foundations of public support required for a Russian military intervention in Chechnya. Russian Federation troops entered Chechnya on the 1st of October 1999 in response to both the Islamist bombings but also in reaction to the invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Peace Keeping Brigade (IIPB)on 26th August 1999. Russian Prime Minister; Vladimir Putin stated that the objective of the Russian invasion was to dismiss Aslan Maskhadov from his 'illegal' duties as Chechen President, and return Chechnya to being governed by the Russian Federation.
The initial ground campaign was fought between the Russian military and Chechen separatists in predominantly open combat but with far greater emphasis placed on the use of Russian artillery and air power to provide support for ground operations than that seen in the First Chechen War (Evans, R.D: 2001). Lessons had been learnt from the humiliating Russian defeat during the First Chechen War and Russian military strategy had been almost completely revised (Haas, M.D: 2003) baring fastidious attention to reducing Russian casualties in order to maintain public support.
In order to reduce the number of Russian casualties on the ground, newly elected Prime Minister Vladimir Putin initiated a series of aerial campaigns on a scale far larger than anything witnessed in the previous conflict; of which were predominantly based on western models of air power exhibited throughout both Kosovo and the First Gulf War (Haas, M.D: 2003; 5).
The Russian air campaigns began in September 1999 with the intention of reducing much of the rebels strongholds to rubble before even considering executing a close-quarters ground offensive. Russian Air Force targets during the first phase of the conflict included strategic objectives such as telephone and electricity infrastructure, Grozny's airport and water
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reservoirs as well as tactical objectives inclusive of; military bases, bridges, roads and vehicles (Haas, M.D: 2003; 9-10).
Russian Federation forces launched a successful invasion and further occupation of Chechnya- primarily as a result of what can be concluded by four variations to that of the first conflict. Firstly, Russian commanders enjoyed far more autonomy with regard to their orders. Military commanders were able to exercise authority over the conduct of operations as opposed to politicians. It is logical for the politics prior to war to be dealt with by politicians, yet matters of conflict to be dealt with independently by military commanders with political guidance only when requested (Evans, R.D: 2001; 15). Secondly, the Russian military benefitted from a far greater numerical advantage with almost 100,000 in number assembled by October 1999. Thirdly, Russian military commanders from all services performed more coherently together by reorganising the North Caucus Military District enabling all branches of the military to improve the effectiveness of operations through unity of effort (Evans, R.D: 2001; 16). The Russian Air Force played a far more prominent role during the Second Chechen War and had much to prove after the failures of the previous war.