Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Assassination Attempt in Ingushetia Threatens Medvedev’s Broader Policies

Paul Goble

Vienna, June 23 – The assassination attempt against Ingush President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, an action that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev views as a direct challenge to his own cadres policy, has prompted him to change course in ways that point to more violence, instability, and human rights violations in the North Caucasus.
As Moscow commentator Tatyana Stanovaya pointed out today, it is “obvious” that Medvedev views the attempt as an attack on his policies, given that the Russian president had insisted on Yevkurov’s appointment despite opposition from Vladimir Putin who was reluctant to oust his unpopular chekist predecessor (www.politcom.ru/8379.html).
Not only did Medvedev devote almost his entire working day yesterday to the Yevkurov case – summoning top security officials, ordering a harsh response to the perpetrators, and visiting the Ingush leader in a Moscow hospital – but the Russian leader took an action which casts doubt on his “liberal” reputation and points to a new harsher line in the Caucasus.
During a pre-scheduled meeting with Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Medvedev directed him to go after militants both inside Chechnya and across the North Caucasus, something Kadyrov has frequently offered to do but a move Moscow until now has been unwilling to allow.
While Kadyrov has been relatively successful in creating the façade of stabilization in his own republic, the Chechen leader’s thuggish behavior, his inclusion of former militants in his own administration, and his Chechen nationalist pretensions with respect to other territories, Ingushetia’s in particular, help explain Moscow’s reluctance even under Putin to take this step.
But now Medvedev has done so, and consequently, each of these factors is likely to have explosive consequences. Kadyrov’s violent approach not only will guarantee more human rights violations across a larger region but drive more young people in the Caucasus into the arms of the anti-government militants.
His likely effort to create what can only be described as a simulacrum of stability in other republics by including some militants in their administrations will at best lead to a band of Kadyrov-style states across the region and at worst to a complete breakdown of government authority, forcing Moscow to introduce more of its own forces or withdraw.
And Kadyrov’s pretensions toward the territory of other regions are certain to create new problems in Ingushetia, which existed in a common republic with the Chechens at the end of the Soviet period and which Kadyrov has indicated in the past he would like to see combined with his own. Many Ingush, along with many others, are certain to resist any such move.
Why then did Medvedev make this choice in the wake of the assassination attempt on Yevkurov? The answer, Stanovaya suggests, is to be found in the way in which the Russian president sees his fate wrapped up with Yevkurov, an individual who reflects Medvedev’s views on what a regional leader in the North Caucasus should be like.
It is worth remembering that Yevkurov was installed in place of Zyazikov who, the Moscow commentator points out, “completely lost control over the republic” with actions that “provoked sharp protests from the opposition and attacks [by the increasingly numerous militants] on the force structures.”
According to Stanovaya, the Kremlin had three choices for solving the cadres problem in Ingushetia. Indeed, she suggests, one of the reasons that the sometimes apparently clueless Zyazikov remained in office for as long as he did was because senior officials in Moscow could not reach an agreement on which choice they should make.
The first option, she says, was “the appointment of an authoritative local leader who would be closely tied with the local elites and who could on account of his real influence hold the republic.” The problem with that approach, Stanovaya continues, is that Moscow might lose control over such a strong leader and then have to struggle to remove him.
The second option, the Moscow commentator argues, was to name “a new ‘Zyazikov’,” someone from the force structures with no ties to local elites but capable of working with the siloviki and relying on the federal center “to impose order.” But that approach, as Zyazikov’s tenure showed, carried the risk of having someone in office who was in control of nothing.
The third option was, as Stanovaya says, both “risky and untried,” but it was the one that Medvedev ultimately backed by choosing Yevkurov. The desired candidate, according to this variant, was someone who enjoyed some authority with local people because of his career “but was not connected too closely with the local elites.”
Yevkurov was in fact the second person of this type Medvedev had named to head a North Caucasus republic. Earlier, he had appointed Boris Ebzeyev to head Karachayevo-Cherkessia. But after Yevkurov was named, Stanovaya continues, “experts recognized that a certain Medvedev style of cadre policy was being formed.”
In their commentaries about this, she writes, “the main risk” they was the lack of administrative experience in such candidates. But, Stanovaya notes, “the main risk turned out to be something else: Yevkurov was making sufficient progress at least compared to Zyazikov that he became a target.
But there is an even larger risk on view now. If Medvedev shifts totally and completely into the camp of those like Putin who believe that force alone will be sufficient to defeat the militants, who support people like Kadyrov, and who back outsider siloviki to fill key posts, then what will be at risk is any possibility of stability in the North Caucasus anytime soon.
And that danger helps explain why some are saying “the Kremlin does not control the situation” (www.gazeta.ru/comments/2009/06/22_e_3214257.shtml), why others are speaking about the existence there of “an underground terrorist state” (www.mk.ru/incident/305687.html), and while still a third insists that what Ingushetia needs now are “not soldiers but ethnographers” (infox.ru/authority/state/2009/06/22/yevkurov_mysli.phtml).

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