Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Putin’s System in Chechnya Not Sustainable, ICG’s Sokiryanskaya Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 1 – The International Crisis Group has released a report entitled “Chechnya: [Russia’s] Internal Abroad.” Among its conclusions is that stability in that North Caucasus is inherently unstable because it exists exclusively on the basis of personal ties between Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov.

            One of the report’s co-authors, Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya (the other is Varvara Pakhomenko), gave an interview about the report and the possibilities that Chechnya will either be integrated into Russia, descend into chaos or again move toward state independence (

            According to Sokiryanskaya, “instead of a real political resolution and the integration of [Chechnya] into all-Russian activity, over the course of all recent years we have observed the imitation of these processes. As a result,, that model of the resolution of the situation [there] is not capable of leading to a long-lasting peace.”

            Any change in the leaders in Moscow or Grozny could lead to a new outbreak of confrontation between Russia and Chechnya as well as to “an outburst of force within Chechen society.”  If the situation is to be improved, the ICG analyst says, there must be a new settlement “both within Chechen society and between Chechens and Russians.”

            At present, she says, “there is a region on the territory of Russia which while being de jure part of Russia in reality is an almost independent political formation. [It] lives according to its own laws,” it has “its own political system,” “a cult of personality of a republic leader,” and “its own force structure, ideology, religious policy, international relations and parallel economy.”

            “This is a state within a state,” Sokiryanskaya continues, “in which the federal Russian institutions are controlled by local strongmen who are loyal in the first instance to the local regime and to a much lesser degree that federal institution the employees of which they are.” That, she says, “is one side of the coin.”

            The other is that “this political structure was created by Moscow, is supported by Moscow … and financed almost completely by Moscow.”  Kadyrov, she says, is “a creature of the president of the Russian Federation … [Putin] publicly approves what goes on in Chechnya,” and he does so not out of ignorance as his recommendations to Kyiv to pursue a Chechnya-type strategy with regard to the DNR and LNR.

            The system works as long as Putin and Kadyrov are in place and continue as they are now. But any change could undermine stability. Kadyrov would find it extremely difficult to work with any other Russian leader: he had difficulty enough with Dmitry Medvedev, and he would likely find it even more so with a leader not controlled by Putin.

            That does not mean that there is about to be an armed conflict, despite Kadyrov’s words, Sokiryanskaya says.  Kadyrov clearly needs and wants “a strong older male” to lean on. Earlier that was his father; now it is Putin. “But the question remains whether someone will seek to cast doubt on his power in Chechnya, including possibly Putin himself.”

            But “a change in the status quo in Chechnya is possible only if Putin recognizes that the processes in Chechnya are harming his reputation and image.” In that event, the Moscow president might move in radical ways against his Chechen counterpart. That is a real risk for Kadyrov and both he and his entourage have thought about what to do.

            Some would likely flee to the Middle East – that is why Grozny’s efforts to develop ties with countries there matter so much, Sokiryanskaya says – others might try to make an arrangement with the new powers that be; and still others might be prepared to fight. After all, Chechens have been fighting for their land for a long time.

            Kadyrov or his aides probably could not count on the loyalty of the 20,000 armed men nominally under his control in such an event. But “in conditions of contemporary partisan war, one doesn’t need a large number of fighters. Therefore even 1000 well instructed and armed people is no small thing.”

            The Chechen leader could also try to become “the successor of Dzhokhar Dudayev.” Some of the latter’s supporters would back him against the Russians, but most of them, the ICG analyst says, would then want to get rid of him and put one of their own in power. That is not an especially attractive option for Kadyrov.

            The best way forward, Sokriyanskaya suggests, is for some limits to be put on Kadyrov’s freedom of action (She says 80 percent of his interior ministry troops would be happier if that were done.) and for Chechnya to be gradually integrated into the Russian political and legal spaces.

            Moving in that direction, she concedes, won’t easy; but as the current situation isn’t sustainable, not doing so guarantees that the future will be far more troubled than the present and perhaps as chaotic as the not so distant past.

No comments:

Post a Comment