Gulfport, February 12 – The Russian Supreme Court’s decision this week to formally declare the Caucasus Emirate a terrorist organization and to ban its activities on the territory of the Russian Federation appears likely to prove counterproductive, according to a Russian analyst now living in Israel.
In an article posted online yesterday, Avraam Shmulyevich, who writes frequently about the North Caucasus, argues that the decision itself and especially its timing is likely to encourage the very people Moscow has banned and to raise questions about Moscow’s ability to deal with the challenge the Emirate poses (www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=comment&id=1717).
On the one hand, he notes, the chief media outlet of the Emirate organization, Kavkazcenter.info, celebrated what the Russian court did as a form of official “recognition” of the existence and power of the shadowy group that has often claimed responsibility for various terrorist acts but about which relatively little is known.
Indeed, that website’s commentator pointed out, this decision, coming on the heels of Moscow’s formation of a North Caucasus Federal District, the borders of which exactly correspond to those claimed by the Emirate, underscores how many problems Moscow faces in its efforts to control that region (www.kavkazcenter.info/russ/content/2010/02/08/70526.shtml).
And on the other, Shmulyevich continues, the timing of the court’s decision is very strange, given that Moscow has certainly known about the Caucasus Emirate and its leader Chechen field commander Doka Umarov at least since the group declared itself in October 2007 as the sponsor of a jihad against unbelievers in the North Caucasus as a whole.
Moreover, the facts the court accepted as the basis of its decision have the effect of raising more questions than they answer. Ac, cording to Lenta.ru, law enforcement agencies told the court that while the exact numbers of people involved in the Caucasus Emirate is “unknown,” the estimates range “from 50 to 1500” (lenta.ru/news/2010/02/08/imarat/).
All this, Shmulyevich suggests, raises three questions which must be troubling to anyone in the Russian Federation. First, “what kind of law enforcement organs exist in Russia, if [they cannot be more specific about] the number of the main terrorist organization operating in the country” than to say that there are between 50 and 1500?
Given what the Caucasus Emirate’s forces have been able to do, he points out, such figures suggest that they are truly “cyborg-terminators, each of which is worth 10,000 federal soldiers,” a figure that raises questions not just about Russian law enforcement but about its force structures as a whole.
Second and even more significant, Shmulyevich says, why did the Russian courts act now after the Caucasus Emirate has been active for so long? After all, he notes, “from the point of view of the laws of mass understanding and public relations, this means the recognition of the Emirate,” albeit in a negative way, just as Kavkazcenter.info suggests.
As a result of the court’s action this week, he continues, “everywhere people write about ‘the Caucasus Emirate,’” they will refer to the Russian Supreme Court, which by its curiously delayed decision has given that organization “an advertisement worthy of a major cash award in Saudi dinars.”
And third, as people both in the North Caucasus and more generally in the Russian Federation are sure to ask, has “a major power lost the information war to ‘a group of bandits’”? It Russia has indeed lost his pr campaign, then many are going to ask whether “the federal powers that be of Russia can carry out an effective counter-propaganda campaign.”
And if people begin asking those questions seriously, Shmulyevich concludes, they are inevitably going to be driven to ask about the powers that be in Moscow that have acted this way and in the past that are behind this strange court decision, questions that the Russian powers that be may find even more difficult to cope with than any of the others.