Tallinn, December 9 – The rapidly deteriorating situation in the North Caucasus has prompted the upper house of the Russian parliament to create a special commission to track developments there and come up with recommendations on how to prevent that restive region from spinning out of control.
Aleksandr Torshin, the first vice speaker of the Federation Council, told “Vedomosti” in remarks published yesterday that the new body will include the heads of the legislative assemblies of the seven North Caucasus republics as well as senators, Duma deputies and representatives of the economic, force and intelligence agencies.
It will be led by an executive commission consisting of seven senators, he said, initially include as advisory members representatives of the parliaments of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia and ultimately Turkey and Iran, Torshin said, adding that he had asked that a smaller commission created after the 2004 Nazran events be disbanded. (www.vedomosti.ru/newspaper/article.shtml?2008/12/08/172581).
That earlier body, which was created with some fanfare four years ago, has done little or nothing in recent months, Ingushetia senator Isa Kostoyev said. But despite that precedent Torshin argued that the new commission would play a role in coming up with new ideas on how to stabilize the situation (www.vedomosti.ru/newspaper/article.shtml?2008/12/08/172581).
Indeed, he compared it to the Caucasus Bureau (Kavburo) of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party that existed between 1920 and 1922 under the chairmanship of Sergey Kirov. But that comparison, although it provided the title for the “Vedomosti” article, is almost certainly a stretch.
The Soviet precedent was not a consultative or legislative body. Instead, that body was an executive representative of the RKP Central Committee that was empowered to direct and give orders to all party organizations and Soviet officials in the North Caucasus in the name of Moscow (www.newsru.com/russia/08dec2008/kavburo.html).
Indeed, some senators are already suggesting that the new group, however powerful it may appear on paper, is in fact insufficient given the explosiveness of the situation. Kostoyev, for example, said that what ought to be created were special “mobile operational-investigative groups.”
And experts on the region are even more skeptical about the new body. Sergey Markedonov, one of the most thoughtful Moscow specialists on the region, said that the new body is likely to do little more than “collect the FSB and Interior Ministry reports that in the Caucasus everything is bad.”
That won’t get anyone very far, he implied, and argued that “the first task” of the Russian government, including the legislature, “is to recognize that the struggle against them in Daghestan and Ingushetia is being conducted not by bandits but by politically motivated people” and to work “to understand their political motivation.”
Other observers are skeptical that the new organization will do anything at all. Sergey Petrunin, who writes for Sobkorr.ru, argues that the situation is so bad now, not only the traditional hotspots but across the region, that the new group is unlikely to do more than register what everyone already knows (www.sobkorr.ru/news/493CE877BFD89.html).
But as dangerous as that would be, the situation may soon get even worse. Pavel Felgengauer, the distinguished military affairs analyst for “Novaya gazeta,” wrote yesterday that Moscow may soon have no choice but to launch another war in the Caucasus if it is to maintain its position there (www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2008/91/17.html).
And at least some in the Russian capital may be planning to do just that: Russia’s Alpinist Federation announced this week that it is trainings tens of thousands of troops for operations in the mountains. The North Caucasus region would seem to be their likely first destination (www.mignews.com/news/society/cis/041208_110220_09397.html).