Vienna, November 27 – Ever since President Dmitry Medvedev suggested in his message to the Federal Assembly two weeks ago that there should be a single official responsible for the situation in the North Caucasus, there has been a great deal of speculation about whether Moscow might name Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to such a post.
But while Moscow may yet take that step, observers there and in the North Caucasus are pointing out that it would be a risky one for the region, parts of which would resent such a role for the Chechen leader, Moscow, which could thus face even more instability, and Kadyrov himself, who might have to give up his current job for one in with less independent power.
An article posted today on the Kavkaz-uzel.ru site surveys some of the discussion in Moscow about both this post and Kadyrov’s fitness for it and then reports on how this possibility is viewed in Grozny, a perspective that may prove decisive not only for Moscow but also for Kadyrov’s willingness to take such a job (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/162475/).
In his November 12 address, Medvedev said that he had ordered the Russian government to come up with by January 1 not only a list of “criteria” to evaluate the effectiveness of federal policies in the North Caucasus but also to appoint an official “personally responsible for the situation in this region.”
Sergey Naryshkin, head of the presidential administration, added that such an official must have “sufficient power for coordinating the activities of power.” And Arkady Dvorkovich, an assistant to the president that that the official must be able to give “assignments to ministers, heads of various organs of power, and enjoy a status” with leaders in the region.
These remarks prompted some to focus on the possibility that the new official would be a military man, a former Federal District head or another outsider capable of imposing Moscow’s will (www.rian.ru/politics/20091121/194842720.html, www.nr2.ru/northwest/258108.html, and www.rg.ru/2009/11/20/evkurov.html).
But almost immediately, the possibility that Moscow would choose Kadyrov took center stage, not only because Russian officials have presented his rule in Chechnya as a successful one but also because Kadyrov has repeatedly indicated that he and his regime are ready and able to bring order in Ingushetia and even further afield.
The attention to Kadyrov was strengthened when Vladimir Varfolomeyev, the deputy chief editor at Ekho Moskvy, posted a note on his blog in which he said that the Kremlin had “almost decided” on the Chechen president. The only thing “unresolved,” Varfolomeyev said, was “a single formal but principled question.”
That was, the Ekho Moskvy editor said, “whether after gaining the status of a federal vice prime minister, Ramzan Kadyrov would retain as well his position as head of Chechnya” – a matter of some concern to Kadyrov of course because Chechnya serves as his own independent power base.
In Chechnya itself, Kavkaz-uzel.ru reports, Moscow’s recent decision to give Kadyrov the rank of militia general and put the operational staff of Russian forces in Chechnya under his control suggests that the Chechen president will be given the new position Medvedev has outlined.
According to one Chechen political commentator, speaking on condition of anonymity, the proposal of the Russian president raises many questions because of the complexity of relations among Moscow, the Southern Federal District, the heads of the security services, and the leaders of the republics in the North Caucasus.
But however things turn out, the commentator continued, Ramzan Kadyrov is a real candidate for this post.” First of all, he enjoys the “colossal” trust of Moscow and especially Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Second, Kadyrov has shown himself willing to use force to stabilize the situation. And third, his new MVD rank boosts his status with the force structures.
Perhaps even more indicative that Kadyrov would like such a post, the anonymous commentator continued, is his recent suggestion that he considers Adam Delimkhanov as his successor, an indication that Kadyrov would like to have new worlds to conquer, something “the Kremlin also understands.
Another Chechen observer, also speaking anonymously, said that it was not the case that all the other North Caucasus leaders would oppose such a move. “Naturally, the appointment of Kadyrov as ‘first among equals’ could not please the leaders of other regions. But this does not mean that they would not subordinate themselves to him.”
“All of them,” he continued, are bureaucrats appointed by the Kremlin, and they recognize that they can be deprived of their posts at any moment.” But that applies to Kadyrov as well, and because that is the case, it is possible that the appointment of the Chechen president to this new post could cost him his power in his own republic.
“Taking into account the unpredictable quality of the actions of the Russian powers that be,” the commentator added, “one must not exclude the possibility that they simply want to remove Kadyrov from Chechnya, deprive him of his military support, and then remove him from all other things as well.”
“That Ramzan Kadyrov is still in favor with Putin,” he concluded, “does not mean that Medvedev likes him.” Indeed, the Russian president’s proposal could be the clearest possible indication that the Kremlin leader wants a new direction in the North Caucasus, very different from the one Kadyrov and Putin have pursued.