Some claim that Shamil Basaev was recruited by the GRU (Soviet then Russian military intelligence) in order to make trouble for independent Georgia. (See the Wikipedia entry for the story). This charge, of course, supports the meme that Georgia would have been sufficiently peaceful had Moscow not stirred up trouble. Several things need to be considered before this may be believed. First the Russian media in the 1990s was little more than the house organs of the oligarchs in their wars with each other: much content was subordinated to this purpose. Second, the period after the breakup of the USSR was one of extreme confusion: in particular the former “organs of state security” and the Armed Forces had little notion of their future. Intermittently paid in depreciating money, unsure of their “ownership” (especially true of former Soviet garrisons in the newly independent countries) and with little control from anywhere, sometimes attacked by forces in the wars of the time, they survived as best they could. It is indeed fortunate, that rogue units did not become the “White Companies” of the twentieth century. As to Basaev the story is that he was noticed by the GRU at the White House siege in August 1991, trained and inserted into Abkhazia. (See Col. Stanislav Lunev: “Chechen Terrorists in Dagestan – Made in Russia”; Newsmax.com; 26 August 1999 (http://archive.newsmax.com/articles/?a=1999/8/25/210119). The author claims to be a former GRU officer and was a source for, among other things, the “suitcase nuke” excitements of the 1990s. He defected to the USA in 1992: in short about the time of the events he describes). However, it appears that Basaev would have been rather too busy for GRU training courses at the time. The months after the White House events, troubles begin in Chechnya ending in Jokhar Dudayev’s presidency and successful defiance of Moscow. Chechnya declared independence in March 1992 and resistance to Dudayev began to gather that summer. Surely Basaev was there: he is said to have been one of the hijackers of an Aeroflot aircraft in November 1991. Some say that he fought in Karabakh in 1992. He seems to have appeared in Abkhazia around August 1992 and remained there until the end of the fighting. When the First Chechen War began in December 1994, he became one of the leading rebel commanders. Khattab, the Arab jihadist with a carefully chosen team of specialists, arrived in Chechnya about summer 1995 and some time thereafter Basaev joined forces with him. It is said that he received training in Afghanistan at one of Bin Laden’s structures as he completed his transformation from fighter for an independent Chechnya to warrior in the international jihad. This schedule would not appear to leave much time for training from the GRU. I personally have never seen any real evidence to support the assertion that Basaev was trained by or was any sort of asset of the GRU and I do not take the assertion seriously: assertions are plentiful but evidence is not.