Monday, August 30, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow has Made Khloponin’s Job Impossible, Thus Strengthening Kadyrov and Weakening Itself, Russian Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 30 – Moscow has made the task of its North Caucasus plenipotentiary doubly impossible, thus strengthening the hand of Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov and leading other North Caucasus republics, with the center’s blessing, to adopt his approach to security arrangements, according to a leading Russian commentator.
In an article posted today on, Ivan Sukhov, an observer for “Vremya novostei,” argues that the combination of these trends and declining resources for the fight against the militants points to more violence and less Russian control over the North Caucasus in the coming months (
Since the North Caucasus Federal District was created in January 2010, he notes, there have been attacks by forces loyal to Moscow and attacks by those opposed to it, but “no principally new know-how in the area of the struggle with the militants has yet been worked out.” Instead, the same institutions and forces are involved.
As a result, Sukhov says, it is reasonable to conclude now that “the position of Aleksandr Khloponin [as the Presidential plenipotentiary] over the [various groups of] siloviki in the North Caucasus has not strengthened,” while “the position of Ramzan Kadyrov has been boosted,” two trends that show no sign of changing in the near term if at all.
In the months since the new federal district was created, Sukhov notes, there has been no increase in the number of federal siloviki – indeed, their totals may have been reduced – no increase in the number of local official forces, and no effort to put either under the effective centralized control of Khloponin.
Instead, Khloponin has been charged with an impossible mission – “attracting investors and securing the social-economic rehabilitation of the region,” a problematic view in and of itself given the ideological motives of the militants. But even more, the Presidential representative is supposed to use investments to put out the fires that are preventing investments in the first place.
Given the inherent contradiction of that mission, Sukhov continues, “many fr4om the very beginning had assumed that Khloponin sooner or later would” gain control over the siloviki and their operations, especially since the lack of coordination among the units involved often makes the situation on the ground still worse from Moscow’s point of view.
But that has not happened, reinforcing the view of many people in the North Caucasus itself that “the leadership of the force structures, regional and district but not federal are interested in the maintenance of instability in order to keep funding at a high level” and themselves fully employed.
Still worse, those in Khloponin’s entourage who are responsible for liaison if not control of the siloviki are compromised, Sukhov shows by a close analysis of their careers, by close ties with Chechnya’s Kadyrov, something that limits the Presidential plenipotentiary’s role still further even as it gives Kadyrov himself greater freedom of action.
“The new polpred thus has the chance to distribute money on territories, the operational situation of which are defined by force structures no subordinate to him,” Sukhov says, and the Moscow commentator argues that this situation, already dangerous in Chechnya is likely to get worse if other republics follow Chechnya’s lead and create their own forces.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has already signaled his approval of such a step at least with regard to Daghestan, but by so agreeing “Moscow in fact is acknowledging that it does not have enough force instruments in Daghestan for the struggle with the militants or that those it does have are completely unsuitable.”
The militants will certainly read it that way, Sukhov suggests, adding that “the very process of forming new units from representatives of various peoples of Daghestan could spontaneously increase the level of conflicts in that republic,” thus complicating both Khloponin’s and Moscow’s life.
And Sukhov concludes with what may prove to be the most explosive change of all: “Chechnya built its current force autonomy under conditions of maximum financial well-being.” There was plenty of money for everything, but now, funds are being cut back. And that means there will be much-intensified intensified struggles over resources as well.

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