Stormclouds over the Caucasus
Today we offer a special issue devoted to documenting the horrific violence spreading throughout Russia’s Causasus region, sure and certain proof of two basic facts: The people there do not want to live under Russia rule, and the Kremlin does not have control of them. This means sending Olympic athletes to Russia in 2014, to the Caucaus region itself, is suicidal insanity — as we have said many times before. The world must stop this madness, and President Obama was grossly negligent not to have mentioned it in his recent visit to Moscow.
According to scholar Paul Goble, more than 300 people have been killed in just the first half of this year in Russia’s boiling Caucasus regions, including at least 60 civilians. We’ve already documented the shocking list of high-profile assassinations that have taken place in Ingushetia in recent weeks, so it should come as no surprise when Goble reports:
The most unstable part of the North Caucasus is Ingushetia where during the first six months of this year, the militants attacked law enforcement personnel 58 times – about once every three days – leaving 37 uniformed personnel dead and 79 wounded. In addition, more than 39 civilians were killed, with ten kidnappings of whom four were found dead. The situation in Chechnya was only slightly less bad, despite the upbeat coverage of it in Moscow and Grozny. During the first half of 2009, there were a minimum of 116 special operations conducted by the siloviki and 21 terrorist acts. At least 34 supposed militants were killed, as were 11 civilians.
Goble notes that political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky has “said [on Russian radio] that Moscow has lost effective control over several republics in the North Caucasus and that “Chechnya de facto is not part of Russia, a situation that reflects the Kremlin’s own “sowing of dragon seeds” in the area which are now coming to poisonous flower not only in Chechnya but across the region.
Goble then quotes Aleksey Malashenko, a leading specialist on Islamic societies, who argues in a recent New Times essay that “the problem of the North Caucasus is today broader than is imagined in Moscow. It is not simply instability but rather what is taking place there is the systemic degradation of the region especially in its eastern sections.” He says that the region is being “transformed into an enclave, living by its own laws, where shootings, explosions and attacks on the representatives of the powers that be and terror in response are in the order of things toward a system not of this century or the past one but toward a more distant time.”
In other words, it’s more than obvious that the main claim to fame of Vladimir Putin, pacifying Chechnya, was an illusion. In fact, Chechnya has won. Its goal was to become independent, and it has done so. What’s worse, it is has been left free to sow the seeds of violence and insurrection in the surrounding Caucasus regions as well, and all of them are bursting into flames simultanously. When one considers the apocalyptic failure of the Russian economy, Putin’s only other serious claim to achievement, it is impossible not to conclude that Putin’s rule has been a disaster for Russia.
Goble reports that Russia has totally failed to bring civil society to the Caucasus. He writes:
In these republics, there is practically no economy in the generally accepted meaning of this word, and there has been the complete collapse of the educational system, with Russian instructors having [already] left and the local intelligentsia now fleeing. As a result, what is taking place today is the second wave of Islamization of the region. There is an absolute lack of any serious Moscow policy toward the region, one that is based on an understanding that what Russia has in that region now is a feudal, semi-traditional society, one that cannot be governed by the interests of Gazprom and Rosneft.
Ramzan Kadyrov, Goble writes, may have “been a net plus for Moscow up to now but he is rapidly transforming himself into a problem. Not only has he made himself an absolute and uncontrolled power there, but his program of Islamization split society, with the older age groups who grew up in Soviet times are against and the younger people are all in favor.”
The Caucasus are, in other words, a dangerous powerkeg. By vesting Russia with the Olympic games, the West has lit the fuse.