Staunton, July 23 – Vladimir Putin has ordered that all the federal subjects in Russia resolve any border disputes with their neighbors by the end of 2021, a deadline that some in the North Caucasus are unlikely to meet without significantly expanded intervention by Moscow, something the center faces difficulties in doing, Ivan Klyzszcz says.
The doctoral candidate at the University of Tartu says that Moscow has now recognized that is economic policy in the region has failed and called for changes over the next few months, but the Kremlin has been unwilling to change the political landscape in the region by changing regional leaders on whom it relies (ridl.io/ru/novyj-podhod-kremlja-k-skfo/).
That combination means that social tensions remain high even though violence has declined and that current regional leaders have little interest in reaching agreement lest any concessions undermine their standing with the population. To break this logjam, Moscow may have to step up pressure, possibly to levels not seen since the time of the Sochi Olympics (rbc.ru/opinions/economics/18/06/2021/60cc96839a7947e4fb013b29).
The protests in Ingushetia over the land deal between former republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov are a warning of what could happen if the economy remains in recession and current political elites seek to reach the border agreements Moscow requires without such repressive actions from the center.
At present, Klyszcz continues, there are two major border disputes that could erupt. The first is between Ingushetia and North Ossetia over the Prigorodny District which led to a war in the early 1990s and the flight of some 60,000 Ingush from that territory which had belonged to Ingushetia before Stalin’s deportation of that nation to Central Asia.
And the second is between Chechnya and Daghestan over districts in the latter which had belonged to Chechnya before 1944 and which continue to be populated by Chechens who have become increasingly restive in recent years about being run from Makhachkala rather than from Grozny.
Moscow had hoped that economic development would overcome all these problems and thus allow it to keep in place its political appointments in these republics, but that has clearly not been the case. Unemployment and poverty remain especially high in the republics where border disputes are the most serious.
Two of the three republic leaders involved have already been forced out, Yevkurov in Ingushetia and Vladimir Vladimirov in Daghestan. Moscow shows no sign of being willing to dispense with Ramzan Kadyrov, and it certainly doesn’t want to signal that popular unrest will force its hand again.
Consequently, Klyszcz suggests, Moscow is very soon going to have to make some fundamental changes. In the absence of economic growth, it will either have to change cadres, increase its own role, or give up on meeting the delimitation deadline, any one of which will give the center a black eye.
That makes delay the most likely way forward, but precisely because the people and leaders in the North Caucasus will see that their resistance to what Moscow wants as the cause of that decision at the center, such a decision by the Kremlin puts off the immediate problem but only at the cost of making it worse down the pike.