Staunton, April 28 – Vladimir Putin’s use of Ramzan Kadyrov brought a kind of stability in the North Caucasus – professions of loyalty by the latter to the former and an unprecedented grant of money and power by the former to the latter – but now the arrangement is breaking down both domestically and internationally; and the Kremlin leader faces some stark choices.
If Putin moves to sack Kadyrov, he may provoke another war in the North Caucasus, one that he may find it far harder to win this time around than last; but if he doesn’t, Putin will lose support from Kadyrov’s enemies in the Russian security services and suffer an even greater defeat as a result of his proposal that Kyiv adopt a Kadyrov approach to the Donbas.
In a commentary in “Kommersant,” journalist Maksim Shevchenko observes that Kadyrov’s directive to his forces that they should fire on anyone coming in from outside not only demonstrated that Chechnya is no longer really part of Russia but also prompted the Russian interior ministry to issue an unprecedented statement (kommersant.ru/doc/2715345).
The Moscow ministry pointed out that calls like Kadyrov’s were impermissible. But it is perhaps understandable why Kadyrov issued one. Not only has there been the disagreement with Moscow over who was responsible for Boris Nemtsov’s murder, but there are indications that some Russian agencies have sent hit squads into Chechnya not to arrest Dadayev but to kill him.
Indeed, Chechnya’s ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiyev has pointed out that those going in to Chechnya have behaved in precisely that way. “The operation of the [Russian] siloviki reminds one more of the work of killers” than of law enforcement personnel. They wouldn’t have done this unless they were well paid or well-connected.
Someone is going to have to be replaced or back down, either the Russian interior ministry or the Chechen side. “It is evident,” Shevchenko said, “that the situation has taken a serious turn: Kadyrov is ready to retire.” Certainly, in the end, “either he will go or the leadership of the MVD.”
Which one leaves may depend entirely on Putin, but whatever he decides will have fateful consequences for his future.
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Kiselyov writes in a blog post for Ekho Moskvy, Putin’s “Kadyrov problem” has spread to Ukraine and affected how people there view their future, all in ways that are exactly the opposite of the ones Vladimir Putin has been hoping to promote (echo.msk.ru/blog/kiselev/1538590-echo/).
“Only the blind,” he says “do not see that in real life, Chechnya has a level of independence which the late Dzhokhar Dudayev did not aspire to even in his most courageous dreams.” It has “in fact” stopped “living in the Russian legal space,” something that has consequences not only within Russia but internationally.
Putin and his foreign minister are now talking about the need to fight ISIS, Kiselyov says. “Mr. Putin, on the one hand, hypocritically expressing concern about this same ISIS; on the other hand, has cynically proposed to German Chancellor Merkel” that she suggest to Kyiv that it deal with the DNR and LNR as he has dealt with Chechnya.
That proposal was “not some kind of abstraction but a fully concrete attempt to impose on European leaders ‘the Chechen model’ of resolving the situation in Ukraine.” Although it was made last November, Kisilyov says he “fears that it has not been buried.” Kadyrov’s recent actions raise a dangerous specter.
“The Orthodox-Stalinist khalifate” which might arise if the Europeans were to try to force the Ukrainian government to accept it would create “in the center of Europe” a force that “in the short term would eclipse any ISIS.” But even before that, the very possibility is driving more and more Ukrainians to view NATO membership as their only real choice.
Polls show that support in Ukraine for that step is growing daily, Kisilyov says, adding that “of course, from a poll and even from a referendum” about this and “the real entrance of Ukraine” into the Western alliance “is a distance of enormous size. But the beginning has occurred,” and for this, the commentator says, “enormous thanks to Putin” and his man Kadyrov.