Monday, October 8, 2018

Kadyrov, Like Basayev, Wants to Unify North Caucasus But Unlike Him, He has Moscow’s Backing, Milshteyn Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 8 – Two decades ago, Shamil Basayev dreamt of forming “an Islamic khalifate from the Caspian to the Black Sea,” Ilya Milshteyn writes; but he had not chance of achieving it because he was opposed by Russia, much of the rest of the Caucasus and even inside his native Chechnya. 

            Now, the Russian commentator continues, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has a similar dream – “the unification of the Caucasian lands under the banner of the struggle against ‘evil force’, to which he ascribes all his enemies regardless of their religious affiliations” (

                Observers disagree as to whether he can achieve this goal, Milshteyn says; but “it is clear that in comparison with his predecessor [Basayev], the current unifier has a large number of advantages.”  First and foremost, “Kadyrov enjoys the support of the Kremlin” and of a large number of Chechens as well, if perhaps not as many as he claims.

            Under Kadyrov’s leadership, the once backward “province of the empire has acquired real independence,” not that which the Ichkerian leaders proclaimed, but rather one “based on the fraternal friendship of the local leader with the Moscow tsar” and the latter’s willingness to finance Chechnya in exchange for expressions of undying loyalty.

            If it were up to Kadyrov alone, he would have “long ago imposed order at a minimum on the depressed neighboring republics, according to the Chechen example, not for the benefit of Moscow but for himself and his own position of power, Milshteyn argues, thus potentially setting the stage for a new conflict with Moscow.

            For Kadyrov, disputes about borders are entirely normal; but “for him, the gatherer of the Caucasian lands, it is much more important to destroy his opponent by forcing him to play by his rules.”  That is what he has done with Ingushetia’s Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, but clearly not yet with the Ingush people who see all too clearly what Kadyrov is about.

            Moscow won’t oppose Kadyrov if he doesn’t interfere in the internal affairs of Ingushetia just as Moscow does not now interfere with the internal affairs of Chechnya, the Russian commentator says.  But the question arises as to whether Kadyrov can achieve his goals or Moscow its by such an approach.

            “The situation is very serious,” Milshteyn says. “For Yevkurov which shifts among Moscow, Grozny and its own compatriots. And for the Ingush, a numerically small people condemned to a direct conflict with Kadyrov not to speak about Russia” which in large measure stands behind him.

                No one can exclude the possibility that Kadyrov may move militarily into Ingushetia if his effort to get his way with a border agreement doesn’t result in Chechnya becoming the dominant force in Ingushetia that he hopes for, an intervention that will lead to a war and that will create problems for Moscow as well as for Kadyrov.        

            “Yevkurov isn’t going to remove his signature from the accord, but no one in Ingushetia will consider it legitimate.” Over time, the most likely outcome is that Yevkurov will leave. Whether that will be a defeat for Kadyrov or a victory for him as the Basayev of today remains very much an open question for Grozny and for Moscow.

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