Staunton, December 12 – Since Vladimir Putin came to power, Moscow has used a carrots-and-sticks strategy to try to keep the North Caucasus relatively calm, pouring in resources across the board and deploying its force structures to fight its opponents when the money isn’t enough.
That makes any decline in the amount of resources the central government is prepared or able to send to the region potentially dangerous not only because it is likely to lead to a re-ignition of anti-Moscow movements in the region but also because it means that the center will have to make broader use of its forces, something that entails domestic costs of various kinds.
And a decline that is not across the board but rather limited to or targeted at some republics in the region but not others is thus potentially an indication of where the Russian government thinks it can get away with it as well as of the places where it can’t afford to cut back or may be forced to use more coercion in the near future.
In addition, such variegated cutbacks have the effect of exacerbating competitions among the republics in the region, something that may help Moscow’s divide-and-rule strategy but that will also make it more, not less difficult for the center to control things, by undercutting cooperation among these republics.
In a commentary for the Svobodnaya Pressa-Yug portal today, analyst Anton Chablin says that Moscow is now demanding that all the republics of the North Caucasus tighten their belts but that for various reasons some of them are being required to do so more than others and one – Chechnya – has been able to avoid doing so (yug.svpressa.ru/economy/article/142608/).
Moscow’s new course was signaled at a meeting of the Russian Caucasus Forum in Pyatigorsk last week, he continues. The republics were told by Moscow officials that they were to invest the now-limited resources in promoting economic development rather than to spend money on social services.
Because such social services are the primary way that the republic leaderships have of keeping the peace, the overall cutbacks and Moscow’s order to shift spending from them to economic investment points to both an increase in unhappiness in the population and a growth in anti-regime activity in the short term however wise this shift might be over the longer haul.