Monday, September 16, 2019

Putin Takes Personal Credit for Using North Caucasian Muslims as MPs in Syria

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 12 – While visiting Daghestan, Vladimir Putin rejected as untrue that there exists an unwritten rule not to accept soldiers from the North Caucasus in Russian military academies and said that he personally had given the order to use Muslim soldiers from the region in Syria.

            “Of course, there wasn’t and could not be any such order not to take guys from the Caucasus. On the contrary, we need guys from the Caucasus in the army and in the Armed Forces.”  And he gave as an example the use of Muslim Russian troops as MPs in Syria ( and

            “This by the way was my direct order,” Putin said, “to form subdivisions of the military police primarily from people from the Caucasus. The defense ministry fulfilled my order. [The Muslim troops] gloriously fulfilled their assignments, and one of the positive things is that the local population trusts them.”

            Syria is “a Muslim country, and the presence there of our Muslim soldiers is extraordinarily important because it generates trust among the local population,” the Kremlin leader said.

            In fact, the Russian government extending back to tsarist times has not used members of certain ethnic and religious groups, including many Muslim ones, a policy it extended after 1991 out of fears that the North Caucasians might make use of any military skills they acquired against Moscow (

            Until about five years ago, the Russian military did not draft many North Caucasians despite the fact that many of them wanted to serve to get the military ticket they needed to serve in the police. In fact, some Chechens even bribed their way into the Russian army (

            But demographic decline among ethnic Russians has meant that Moscow has been forced to draft North Caucasians albeit still at numbers far lower than their percentages in the draft-age population would appear to call for (,, and

            Thus, the rumors Putin dismissed as untrue are not unfounded and the prospect that Russian officers will be willing to accept and promote North Caucasians into places of command is still unlikely. Using the North Caucasian Muslims as MPs in Syria is one thing; allowing them to become officers in command of ethnic Russians is something else entirely.

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