Putin’s Chechnya Fraud
Last week various news organizations reported on Russia’s announcement of a major force withdrawal from Chechnya. The Kremlin was attempting to make it seem that it was pulling out troops because it could declare, like George Bush: “Mission accomplished!” As if to add another exclamation point, the Kremin assassinated yet another Chechen national on foreign soil (but would Russia accept Britain liquidating Russian citizens it felt were connected to the Litvinenko murder?).
Bush, however, didn’t pull troops out of Iraq after making that declaration, and the ever-watchful Paul Goble was not fooled by the Kremlin’s gambit, as were some of the clueless news organizations who reported the story. And, encouragingly, Goble says that many Russians are also wise to the Kremlin’s ridiculous fraud. In fact, the only reason Russia is pulling forces out of Chechnya is that it simply can’t afford to keep them there any longer.
Kommersant says that its sources have indicated that any such decision, which they say would have occurred at the March 20th meeting between Kadyrov and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, reflects crisis-imposed financial constraints rather that victories in the field. These sources, which the paper says are “highly placed” officials in the defense and interior ministries, told the paper that “under the conditions of the [current economic] crisis, supporting the group of federal forces in Chechnya is becoming simply [and clearly increasingly] difficult.” Aleksey Malashenko, a specialist on the Caucasus at the Moscow Carnegie Center, agreed. “It is obvious,” he told the paper, “that under the conditions of a financial crisis, paying for the many-thousand-man strong grouping of forces together with all its weaponry and command structures is beyond the capacity of the powers that be.”
Refuting claims from the Kremlin’s puppet regime in Chechnya, Goble gives three reasons to disregard their fanciful claims that the region has been pacified:
First, Russia’s deputy interior minister Arkady Yedelev said that Kadyrov’s declaration about the end of the counterterrorism operation was “the first time [he’d] heard about it. Second, officials in the office of President Dmitry Medvedev who would have to sign off on any such policy shift given that the war was started by an order of an earlier Russian president said that it was premature to talk about an end because “the question about this is still only being worked out.” And third, Akhmed Zakayev, the prime minister of the government of Chechnya-Ichkeria, now in exile, told Kommersant that “it is possible to make [any kind of statements about the situation] one wants on paper, but in fact nothing has changed” on the ground in his homeland or between Moscow and Grozny.
The notion that the Kremlin can afford to disengage militarily from Chechnya even as Dagestan explodes in violence and the nation prepares to host the Olympics in Sochi is ludicrious even by the bizarre standards of the neo-Soviet Kremlin. Anyone who had not already abandoned the idea of attending the Sochi games, whose security will obviously be compromised by the economic crisis in any case, will have no choice now but to see that such a decision would be suicidal.
In our lead editorial, we point out Russia’s naked attempt to militarize the Arctic, seeking territorial conquest there. From all appearances, the Kremlin is cutting of security efforts in Chechnya in order to pay for this madcap scheme, and dooming all those in the region to decades of violence and bloodshed — to say nothing of the Olympic athletes.
It’s genuinely pathetic that the Kremlin would think it could pull of a charade like this. It was one thing for it to try such games during the Soviet times when it was protected by its shroud of mystery behind the “Iron Curtain.” But now, the world can only gape in horror as Russia seems hellbent on self-destruction.