Dodge Billingsley, Fangs of the Lone Wolf: Chechen Tactics in the Russian-Chechen Wars 1994-2009
Dodge Billingsley, Fangs of the Lone Wolf: Chechen Tactics in the Russian-Chechen Wars 1994-2009, England, Helion and Company, 2013, 208 pages
1As the title itself makes clear, this work primarily concerns the military tactics used by Chechen combatants during their two armed conflicts with Russia, from 1994 to 1996 and again from 1999 to 2009.
2One of the book's main points of interest, which greatly distinguishes it from the bulk of works on Chechnya that have been published in the last few years, is to show the different stages of the wars, including truces, sudden changes of direction, changes in tactics, lessons learned from various military defeats. All of this is then presented within the context of an enormous asymmetry both in terms of military might and in terms of brute number of soldiers, for in these wars a few thousand independence fighters stood against the trained army of a powerful nation. In this sense, Fangs of the Wolf adds to and complements Stasys Knezys and Romanas Sedlickas' The War in Chechnya (Texas A&M University Press), which was published in 1999, before the second war with Russia.
3This book is therefore clearly aimed at specialists and enthusiasts of military strategy who are eager to know how small groups manage against organized armies in cities, mountains and foothills within the context of colonial and guerilla warfare. Nevertheless, Fangs of the Lone Wolf could have striven to attract a wider public. The introduction, for example, is extremely promising, as is the fact that the author methodically tracked down and interviewed former Chechen fighters, some of whom fought on the front lines. It could have thereby shed light on the motives they had for their commitment and the various paths that led ordinary people to take up the fight. What also could have become clearer is the process by which these groups of combatants came together, their perception of the war and the effects of their experiences on them after the war, both as individuals and as groups. There are tantalizing glimpses of all of these things in the book, but they are never fully developed, leaving the general reader somewhat dissatisfied.
4On the one hand, the linear accounts deal exclusively with concrete tactics, which, from the point of view of the social sciences, can only garner limited interest. At the same time, the chapters are composed of juxtaposed "vignettes" highlighting this or that tactic or masterful military move, which do not however always help to unravel the complexities at play.
5Moreover, the order of the chapters devoted to different topics ("Defense of an Urban Area", "Breakout of an Encirclement", "Raids", "Ambush and Counter-Ambush", "Defense of Lines of Communication", "Defense of a River Line", "Mine and Anti-Tank", "Attack", "Shelling and Sniping Attacks"), and the vignettes themselves often deal with events from very different periods, with those of the first and second wars flipping back and forth.
6All the same, the reader is privy to numerous historical events that help in understanding how the Chechen strategy gradually developed. Accompanied, no less, by a treatise on the weapons that the Chechen fighters had at their disposal, replete with maps and diagrams.
7Specialists in military tactics should therefore consider themselves the primary audience for this book.
Aude Merlin, « Dodge Billingsley, Fangs of the Lone Wolf: Chechen Tactics in the Russian-Chechen Wars 1994-2009 », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 16 | 2014, Online since 18 January 2015, connection on 25 April 2017. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/4122Top of page
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