Friday, July 16, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Another Chechen War Could Soon Break Out, Moscow Analysts Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 16 – The security situation in the republics of the North Caucasus has been deteriorating for some time, but now the Russian special forces in Chechnya have accused that republic’s Battalion North, many of whose soldiers earlier served in separatist forces, of “betrayal” and promised to take their revenge, something that could trigger a new Chechen war.
An analysis posted on yesterday said that “alongside the unceasing flow of reports” about violence in Daghestan, Ingushetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria, on July 15, “another ‘bell’” sounded in Grozny, suggesting that “a new Chechen war is not beyond the mountains” (
As “Moskovsky konsomolets” described it, Russian special forces now have radio intercepts which show that soldiers in the Chechen Battalion North shared information on February 4 that cost the Russian troops five dead and numerous wounded and even fired on the Russians(
The Moscow paper also reported that just before that operation, the commanders of the Russian and Chechen units had gotten into a serious argument, and it reported that some of those serving in Battalion North “had told special forces personnel from Ufa [the capital of Bashkortostan] that Muslims shouldn’t go to Chechen to fight their co-believers.”
And “Moskovsky komsomolets” suggested that “a conflict which threatens to end in bloodshed is growing” between the Russian and Chechen units, a trend that if it continues would represent a very different kind of violence than that between the force structures in general and the resistance.
But what is likely to exacerbate the situation still further, the daily continued, is that “the criminal case, which was launched after the operation, has been frozen.” As a result, members of the Russian special forces “now say that they will deal with the situation on their own,” something that could further degrade the situation.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov then and now has defended “the professionalism of the Chechen militiamen.” And he has denied that any of the things “Moskovsky komsomolets” has reported are true. But his insistence on this point may be counterproductive to a Russian audience: For many, it only highlights just how out of control Chechnya now is.
But if the situation deteriorates, there is also the question of how much support any new Russian campaign in Chechnya. One indication of that is the coverage various media outlets, print and electronic, have given to reports showing just how much money Moscow is already spending in the region.
According to “Trud,” Moscow this year is spending nearly ten times as much per capita on Chechens than it is on other Russians as a whole, 48,200 rubles (1600 US dollars) compared to 5,000 rubles (165 US dollars) for others (
Such spending and plans announced by both President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to increase it are unlikely to sit well with Russians who are currently suffering from the consequences of the economic crisis and likely feel that the powers that be are not doing enough for them.
In the short term, at the very least, these reports appear likely to spark more demands for Moscow to remove Kadyrov, a step that could allow Moscow to establish greater control over Chechnya or possibly so disorder the situation there that the Russian forces would face even greater challenges than they do now.
But they will certainly increase suspicions among the force structures concerning how much they can trust and rely on units consisting of people from the region. And that in turn means that any move the Russian powers that be might make would have to be a Russian one, again something that could have unpredictable and possibly explosive consequences.

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