Kadyrov and Moscow, 2007

photo Kadyrov by Gordon M. Hahn

[[In recent weeks Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has graced the headlines of news from Russia. One of the bad boys of Russian politics, he has been at it for years. The following is an excerpt from a 2007 draft of an article eventually published in Post-Soviet Affairs in 2008 that puts the recent news in historical context. For the complete published version see “The Jihadi Insurgency and the Russian Counterinsurgency in the North Caucasus,” Post-Soviet Affairs, Vol. 24, No. 1, January-February 2008), pp. 1-39. I warned in this and other pieces that Kadyrov was a potential threat to Russia’s political stability and territorial integrity and that Putin had placed his bet on the only, if rather dangerous horse in Chechnya.]]

Putin and Kadyrov are in a scorpions’ embrace. Kadyrov needs Putin, who gave the former the power he has today. Putin needs to keep Kadyrov close or he can turn Chechnya and perhaps other parts of the North Caucasus against Moscow. In a very real sense, Putin has created a monster and probably had no other choice, given Chechnya’s highly conflictive political culture.

THE KADYROV REGIME

The success of Moscow’s counterinsurgency campaign will depend in large part on the local pro-Moscow Chechen regime’s loyalty and its ability to fashion an overall modus vivendi with the varied clan, secular, nationalist, traditional Sufi Islamic forces that comprise mainstream Chechen politics. In 2007 these tasks fell on new Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, the son of slain president Akhmed Kadyrov, killed in 2004 by ChRI jihadists in a massive explosion at Grozny’s sports complex during the annual 9 May celebrations commemorating the Soviet victory of fascism in the Great Patriotic War. Ramzan’s rise to the presidency itself was a result of the divisions that plague Chechen society and politics. The elder Kadyrov’s immediate successor, former Chechnya MVD chief Alu Alkhanov, immediately came into conflict with the ambitious Ramzan, who was appointed Chechnya’s first deputy premier after his father’s assassination. By May 2005 Putin was forced to summon the two men to the Kremlin in order to contain growing tensions. In February 2006, after Ramzan reached the age of 30 mandated by the Chechen constitution for the holder of the Chechen presidency, Alkhanov ‘resigned’ and Putin nominated Ramzan as pro-Moscow Chechnya’s third president with the unanimous of approval of the new Chechen parliament elected in November 2006.

Prior to the presidency, the younger Kadyrov was noted as the elder Kadyrov’s strongman. His various presidential guards have been implicated by Russian and international human rights groups in numerous killings, kidnappings, and torture cases of suspected terrorists and their sympathizers. Kadyrov’s security guards and other forces continue to engage in occasional violence against both civilians, terrorists, and the various other armed formations established by Moscow to counterbalance Ramzan.

Kadyrov’s Power and Authority

Since his 5 April inauguration, Kadyrov has attempted to consolidate power in this violence-ridden region by addressing the interests of his native teip (kinship-based clan), Chechen nationalism, and Sufi Islam within the context of continuing loyalty to Moscow. The Kadyrovs hail from one of the most powerful of Chechnya’s nearly 200 extended kinship clans or ‘teips’, the Benoi teip, rooted in and around Gudermes. Chechen teips are usually homogenous with tregard to the Sufi order or brotherhood (tarikat) to which its members adhere. Kadyrov’s father, Akhmed, was a prominent member of the Sufi ‘Qadiriya’ tarikat. The Benoi teip adheres to the Qadiriya tarikat, the most prominent in Chechnya. A strong minority of Chechen teips adhere to the Naqshbandiya tarikat, the same tarikat from which Basayev hailed. Kadyrov has been careful to appoint members of his family and his native teip based in Gudermes as well as other allies to key posts. For example, Ramzan appointed his cousin, Adam Demilkhanov, as Chechnya’s deputy prime minister in charge of the important siloviki.

Kadyrov has appealed in a populist fashion to Chechen nationalism and regionalism. He has proposed using the Chechen language as the language of instruction in Chechnya’s primary schools and financed Chechen folk and singing troupes as well as the publication of the complete works of Chechen national writers. (RFERL Newsline, Vol. 11, No. 124, 10 July 2007.) He fought but failed to win the return of all incarcerated Chechnya residents to the republic to serve out their time. Kadyrov has also lobbied to have Chechen draftees perform their military service in Chechnya, rather than in other republics where they are more likely to fall victim to hazing and other violations of their civil and human rights. At Kadyrov’s behest, the Chechen parliament has requested from Moscow an initial 18 billion rubles, followed by annual payments of 10 billion rubles for an unidentified duration, in compensation for victims of the 1944 deportations of Chechens to Central Asia. Kadyrov is also backing the development of Chechen national culture. Kadyrov’s ombudsman Nudi Nukhazhiev has been most aggressive in demanding work on identifying 1,138 unidentified bodies and finding the more than 4,400 missing persons disappeared during the two post-Soviet Chechen wars. In doing so, Nukhazhiev has been surprisingly outspoken about the war time and post-war disappearances of people “without trace during ‘sweeps,’ special operations, and at checkpoints” and Russian law enforcement bodies’ “failure to prosecute military personnel guilty of kidnapping and killing civilians.” (“Chechen Ombudsman Slams Authorities’ Failure to Prosecute War Criminals,” in Interfax, July 11, 2007) It is likely that both Kadyrov and Moscow are prepared to play the ‘atrocities card’ with these war crimes should they part ways.

At the same time, Kadyrov has promoted the observance of Sufi Islam within the republic. Chechnya’s schools now teach Sufi Islamic principles, and the republic’s higher education institutes have prayer rooms and, in the case of Chechnya State University, a mosque. He has also built a well-equipped Islamic Institute in Kurchaloi that is educating over 500 Islamic theologians. (“Novoe pokolenie Chechni vybiraet namaz i vyzshee obrazovanie,” in Islam.ru, September 19, 2007; Musaev, in Russkii zhurnal, September 4, 2007) Kadyrov himself has spoken out in favor of modest dress for women, which he argues is consistent with Chechen Sufi tradition and undermines the appeal of Islamists. (“R. Kadyrov: Svobodnyi stil’ odezhdy devushek igraet na ruku vakhkhabitam,” in Islam.ru, September 11, 2007) In the same spirit, Grozny forbade the sale of alcohol during this year’s Ramadan. (“V Groznom na vremya Ramadana zapreshchena torgovlya spirtnym,” in Islam.ru, September 12, 2007) However, Kadyrov has been careful to delimit Chechen national and Sufi Islamic aspirations by underscoring Grozny’s loyalty to Moscow within the framework of considerable republic autonomy and by copying Taratsan President Mintimer Shaimiev’s policy of balancing re-Islamization by supporting the Orthodox Church’s activity in the republic.

Kadyrov’s Vulnerabilities

Kadyrov is vulnerable on several scores. His legitimacy is shaky because it is based on nepotism, teip favoritism and continuing financial flows from Moscow, which allow him to be a successful patron for his teip, to co-opt others, and maintain his predominance over challengers within or outside of the jihad. Most fundamentally, Kadyrov has not solved the problem of tarikat and, most importantly, teip divisions within Chechnya. Teip and tarikat loyalties often define the dividing lines over issues such as division of properties, illegal business ventures, and the proper relationship vis-à-vis Moscow and its own leading factions. These divisions, along with Kadyrov’s propensity to resolve disputes by violence, could drive opponents and potential opponents into the mountains and the arms of the ChRI separatists and jihadists.

The Chechen recovery is based on some shady and shaky financing, which allows Kadyrov to dole out patronage. The sources for Kadyrov’s presidential fund, which provides some of the reconstruction financing, are unclear and leave him vulnerable to corruption investigations. His government has taken on some significant debt, which requires some servicing by Moscow, leaving the revival of Chechnya that has shored up his authority dependent on Moscow’s largesse. (Musaev, in Russkii zhurnal, September 17, 2007) Indeed, 90 percent of Chechnya’s budget comes from funds supplied from federal coffers. In order to circumvent the Russian Finance Ministry, Kadyrov has given up on negotiating a bilateral federal-regional power-sharing treaty with the Kremlin and instead has introduced bills to the State Duma that would keep revenues in, and draw investment to, the republic. These bills envision a federal tax exemption for businesses based in Chechnya for seven years followed by a 50 percent reduction in the tax rate for an additional seven years.

The crimes and atrocities committed by Kadyrov’s guard forces have not only left him with many enemies, but limit the legitimacy of his rule. Videos showing Kadyrov’s guards and persons looking like Kadyrov beating and otherwise harassing citizens circulate the Internet and are passed by mobile telephone. As much as his supporters back him, outsiders and opponents fear and loathe him. This risk can be seen in the events surrounding the murder of Russia’s courageous journalist Anna Politvskaya. The October 2006 murder of Politkovskaya has been laid by some at Kadyrov’s door. He reportedly threatened Politkovskaya shortly before her killing, as she was investigating torture in prisons under Kadyrov’s control.[1] Recent developments in the official investigation moved in Chechnya’s direction when among the eleven arrested made in October 2007 in connection with the crime was the former mayor of Chechnya’s Achkoi-Martan Raion, Shamil Buraev, who ran against Ramzan’s father in the 2003 Chechen presidential campaign.[2] However, in March 2007, a statement issued by five former members of the Gorets Battalion, headed by Movladi Baysarov, implicated Kadyrov. They claimed that he hired three members of the battalion to assassinate Politkovskaya and then had the hired killers executed. (“Chleny bandy Baisarova rasskazali podrobnosti ubiistva Politkovskoi,” in Chechenpress.org, 23 March 23, 2007) After Baysarov protested the killing of the former Gorets fighters, he himself was gunned down in Moscow by Chechen policemen apparently sent by Kadyrov on 18 November 2006. A writer and former Russian army Major Vyacheslav Ismailov claims that Kadyrov merely knows which two Chechnya officials ordered Politkovskaya’s murder. (RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 11, No. 158, 27 August 2007)

Moscow, the support of which is vital for Kadyrov’s future, is more likely to turn on him and make use of these vulnerabilities, should his ambitions lead him to take too many liberties with Chechnya’s autonomy, Moscow’s funding flows, or his own political agenda, the ambitions of which may exceed Moscow’s vision of his and Chechnya’s role within the federation.

Kadyrov’s Ambitions

There is considerable speculation by experts and interested parties in Moscow and Grozny that Kadyrov seeks to become the patron and protector of his republic’s domestic and foreign diasporas, re-establish a united Chechen-Ingush republic, and even incorporate Dagestan and perhaps other Caucasus Muslim republics into a single North Caucasus entity within the Russian federation. (Serenko, in Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 2, 2007; Musaev, in Russkii zhurnal, August 21, 2007; Musaev, in Russkii zhurnal, September 4, 2007) The normalcy emerging in Chechnya relative to intensifying jihadi activity in neighboring and fraternal Ingushetia in 2007 raised Kadyrov’s stature, creating opportunities for him on each of these scores.

In marking his first hundred days in office with a July speech to the Chechen people, Kadyrov claimed that Chechnya had become the most stable republic in the North Caucasus, declared there would be no further hostilities in the republic, and proposed a 2008-2011 development plan aimed at doubling the republic’s gross domestic product. (RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 11, No. 124, July 10, 2007;  Interfax, July 9, 2007) In an interview published the next day, Kadyrov, in addition to declaring the insurgency dead, asserted that Chechnya would be the most “dynamically developing” and “problem-free” region in Russia. (Borisov, in Rossiskaya gazeta, July 11, 2007) In September, Kadyrov tried to demonstrate a Chechnya on the rise by offering to send forces to help Ingushetia’s authorities get control of the situation, and there are reports that guards units and the so-called battalions, discussed below, are able to travel across Chechnya’s borders into other North Caucasus republics to conduct operations against suspected jihadists. (“Kadyrov Says Situation in Ingushetia Not That Bad,” in Retwa.org, September 15, 2007; Musaev, in Russkii zhurnal, September 4, 2007) Moscow appeared to do the same and thus play into Kadyrov’s game by sending a unit of Chechens to serve as a peacekeeping construction unit in southern Lebanon to help secure the UN-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Kadyrov has pretended to a role beyond the Caucasus. He claimed that “the republic’s authorities are combating drug addition and alcoholism. We have gotten rid of one-armed bandits and gambling machines; other North Caucasus republics, and even Moscow, are following Chechnya’s example.” (Interfax, 9 July 2007) He was so bold as to “pose the task” of ensuring that Chechens took a worthy place in the economy, political and social life across the Southern FO to President Putin’s envoy to the republic, who promised to defend Chechens and improve their image across the federation. (“Predstavitel’stvo prezidenta Chechni v YuFO budet formirovat’ polozhitel’noe otnoshenie k chechentsam v Rossii,” in Kavkazskii Uzel, August 13, 2007) In the wake of the September 2006 riots against Chechens in the city of Kondopoga located in the far northern Karelian national republic, Kadyrov threatened to travel there and sort out what in fact had happened to spark the violence that forced hundreds of Chechens to leave the city.

Kadyrov also has also been aggressive in trying to attract investment from other Russian regions and abroad, in particular from Muslim countries and Russia’s other Muslim republics. During an August 2007 visit to Jordan, he met with King Abdallah II and Chechen diaspora leaders and went beyond his competency in declaring a new amnesty (a federal prerogative) to lure rebels and exiles back home to build a “modern Muslim Chechnya.” (Firuza Muryasova and Kseniya Solyanskaya, “Ramzan bez predelov,” Gazeta.ru, 28 August 2007, www.gazeta.ru/politics/2007/08/28_a_2100941.shtml) He also has been trying to convince major Chechen businessmen to return to the republic. Recently, Kadyrov convinced Moscow-based Chechen businessman Saidullaev to relocate to Groznyi his firm ‘Milan’, which employs 70,000 people. (Musaev, in Russkii zhurnal, September 4, 2007)

Toward this end and his ambitions, Kadyrov has been conducting his own foreign policy of sorts; one “not particularly controlled by Moscow,” as one observer puts it. (Musaev, in Russkii zhurnal, September 4, 2007) He has offered assistance to the breakaway republic of South Ossetia in Georgia to protect them from any military incursion by Tbilisi. Moving beyond the ‘near abroad,’ Kadyrov has stated his support and presumed to express the support of all of Russia’s Muslims for their country’s entry into Organization of Islamic Countries. (Muryasova and Solyanskaya, “Ramzan bez predelov” and “R. Kadyrov: Musul’mane Rossii zainteresovany v tom, chtoby stranu prinyali v OIK,” Islam.ru, August 27, 2007) He has met at home or abroad with Kazkahstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Jordan’s King Abdallah II, and the Sultan of Brunei.  Kadyrov’s ambitious initiatives risk stepping on toes in the corridors of power in Moscow.

In addition to the armed forces of the various Russian siloviki, there are several local armed formations or so-called ‘battalions’ subordinated different, competing masters. The battalions are manned to varying degrees by men loyal to Kadyrov and former militants. They are subordinated ostensibly to the Russian armed forces and/or the Kadyrov regime as well as the Chechen Republic branches of what are often competing federal law enforcement and security organs or power ministries, the so-called siloviki. These various elements are in constant struggle over both bureaucratic and illicit illegal business turf within the republic. The resulting network of competing groups, laced with the incendiary presence of numerous armed units with diverging loyalties, poses a grave and permanent threat to the stability of the Kadyrov regime and presents opportunities for the militants to create mayhem and recruit new fighters.

Kadyrov Versus the Siloviki

Kadyrov’s status in Moscow depends in great part on the position towards him taken by Russia’s siloviki, with which he has had testy relations. The Russian election, Putin succession struggle or a new post-succession correlation of forces in Moscow could end in some high-ranking siloviki turning on Kadyrov in order to discredit opponents. Already, factional infighting in Moscow between the FSB and the Federal Anti-Narcotics Service has led to the arrests of high-ranking figures on both sides. If such high-ranking figures around the Kremlin are vulnerable, then Kadyrov certainly is. Although the arrest of Buraev suggests that forces in Moscow that perhaps support Kadyrov could have the upper hand, this might not be a permanent state of affairs. Kadyrov remains, therefore, vulnerable to the whims of influential forces in Moscow.

As the son of a former Chechen rebel, Kadyrov is distrusted and in some corners despised within the military, FSB, and GRU. His demand that the military must eventually leave the republic entirely irks the high command and some security agencies. Moreover, he has been locked in battle with both the MVD and prosecutor’s office. This conflict goes back to his contest for power with his predecessor, former Chechen president Alu Alkhanov who prior to succeeding Ramzan’s father after his May 2004 assassination was the republic’s MVD chief with general’s rank. Shortly, after Kadyrov’s succession of Alkhanov, the MVD cut the salaries of the republic’s MVD officers and police. The local MVD suspects or perhaps has been told by elements in Moscow, who hope to divide and rule Chechnya, that this was proposed by Kadyrov.

In addition, upon assuming the presidency he focused on gaining control over the local MVD. Central to this effort was a populist demand to close the MVD’s Operational Search Bureau (ORB-2) for the Southern FO so infamous for its mistreatment of detained suspected militants and criminals. ORB-2 officials have complained that Kadyrov is simply interested in wresting control over the bureau from the MVD. He fought this battle to a draw, winning the replacement of the ORB-2’s commander. However, the new commander, a long-time MVD officer who prior to the ORB-2 post was serving in the MVD’s main administration for the Southern FO, is clearly Moscow’s not Kadyrov’s man. (Abubakarov, in Kavkazskii Uzel, July 24, 2007; “Kadyrov Presents New ORB-2 Chief,” in Retwa.org, July 23, 2007) Kadyrov has been able to replace raion MVD or ROVD chiefs but likely to a similarly limited effect in terms of ensuring their loyalty to Grozny.[3] Thus, in the long run, he has probably achieved little more than making new enemies.

More recently, Kadyrov has turned on the prosecutor’s office, in particular Chechnya’s prosecutor Vasillii Kuznetsov, who is the last high-ranking Chechen official of Russian nationality and has been somewhat more cooperative with human rights NGOs than his predecessors. Kadyrov has sought Kuznetsov’s removal by orchestrating a campaign to discredit him. Several factors likely motivated this move. Kuznetsov is a pure Moscow appointee, and Kadyrov is better off if the occupant of this office is determined by a compromise between himself and Moscow. The Duma and presidential election cycle are also driving Kadyrov, since the Kremlin has accompanied the election campaign with one against corruption in order to improve its image. At the same time, securing an election victory for Putin’s Yedinaya Rossiya party and Kremlin, from which a successor is sure to hail, requires that Kadyrov ratchet up his shadily-financed reconstruction boom in Chechnya and make ample use of administrative resources to get out the vote and undermine other parties. This leaves Kadyrov even more open to corruption charges, once the elections and succession crisis have passed. However risky they may be, Moscow has other methods for undermining Kadyrov.

The Seeds of Instability

During the second war and insurgency, Moscow established several ‘special’ Chechen battalions made up in large part of former militants. These battalions are subordinated nominally to the Defense Ministry’s 42nd motor rifle division but actually are weakly controlled by the GRU. These battalions now spearhead many counterterrorist operations including the notorious security sweeps of Chechen villages. The battalion commanders function as official warlords who can check Kadyrov’s power if needed. The most prominent of the new warlords is Sulim Yamadayev, who commands the ‘Vostok’ or ‘East’ Battalion based in the Kadyrovs’ native Gudermes. Yamadayev’s brother, Khalid, is a deputy in the Russian Duma. The Yamadayevs have been bitter opponents of the Kadyrovs and hold Ramzan responsible for the death of a third brother, Ruslan. There were rumors before Kadyrov’s rise to the presidency that then President Alkhanov was seeking an alliance with the battalions in the event of a confrontation with Kadyrov, who sought the presidency and was at odds with the MVD from which Alkhanov hailed. More recently, there have been reports that Kadyrov ordered the murder of a fourth Yamadayev brother’s wife, the singer Milan Balayev, and mother-in-law. The ChRI website Kavkaz Tsentr recently claimed Milan is alive and has again taken up refuge with the Yamadayevs to whom she is said to have originally wed in order to avoid Kadyrov and his demand that she sing at all concerts in Chechnya. (“Yamadayev otomstil Kadyrovu, soobshchiv o boe bliz Vedeno,” in Kavkaz-Tsentr, July 23, 2007) The Yamadayevs’ stock with Moscow declined in June 2007 when the East Battalion was apparently behind a brutal security sweep in the Chechen village of Borozdinovskaya that left one person dead and eleven detained, prompting the entire village to seek refuge in neighboring Dagestan. The Yamadayevs claimed that unidentified elements were trying to discredit them with the Borozdinovskaya scandal.

The ‘Zapad’ or ‘West’ Battalion, based in Grozny, is led by long-time Kadyrov opponent Said-Magomed Kakiyev. The Zapad Battalion is over a thousand strong and is based on Kakiyev’s clan, the Arsanov teip, based in the Chechnya’s northwest Nadterechnoi raion (district). The Arsanov teip is traditionally of the Naqshbandiya Sufi brotherhood. Kakiyev supported Moscow businessman and prominent Chechen diaspora leader Husseyn Dzhabrailov against Ramzan’s father in the 2003 Chechen presidential campaign. It is believed that the Defense Ministry has been very satisfied with the GRU-tied battalions’ performance. This was expressed in August 2004 when the Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov visited with both commanders and promised to increase funding and equip them with more modern equipment. (Soldatov, in Agentura.ru, November 2007)

Several other battalions – the Neftyanoi polk or Oil Regiment, the already mentioned Gorets or Mountaineer Battallion, and more recently (in 2006) the Sever (North) and Yug (South) Battalions – are ostensibly subordinated to Russian MVD’s 46th brigade, However, having been formed from Kadyrov’s former Presidential Guards, his Security Service, and amnestied jihadists, that is being contested by Kadyrov’s government. The South Battalion’s commander Muslim Ilyasov is reported to be a bitter enemy of Kadyrov’s. The Neftyanoi polk – commanded by Ramzan’s cousin, Adam Demilkhanov, who is now Chechnya’s deputy prime minister – is clearly in Ramzan’s camp. One of the Demilkhanov brothers, nicknamed ‘Jaguar’, and likely his Neftyanoi polk, has been charged by Kadyrov with hunting down emir Umarov. (Borisov, Rossiiskaya gazeta, July 11, 2007) There have been several incidents of violence between elements of the Zapad, Vostok, Yug, and Gorets Battalions and between elements of these and Kadyrov’s personal guards units.

Moscow supports these battalions as a mechanism to employ former separatists and jihadists. In addition, the East, West, and South Battalions clearly function as leverage against Kadyrov to ensure his loyalty to Moscow and contain those of his ambitions for Chechnya that do not suit Moscow. These equally ambitious Moscow-backed warlords, with their heavily-armed battalions overlaying teip and tarikat divisions, hold the potential for a return to internecine violence between various ‘pro-Moscow’ forces tenuously controlled by the Kremlin and Kadyrov.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS

There can be no doubt that Moscow has taken considerable strides in its counterinsurgency efforts over the last two years. Russian success can be attributed in part to better coordination by intelligence, security, military, and police forces under the NAK as well as to greater use of soft power in the form of dividing and co-opting, if not ruling the insurgents and getting serious about reconstruction and development in Chechnya and the broader North Caucasus. In particular, the repeated beheading of the ChRI leadership at the ChRI hub, front, sector, and combat jamaat levels – which suggests better intelligence and operational work – produced rapid leadership turnover at all levels. Combined with the greater attraction of fighting U.S. forces for global jihadists, this has reduced the quality of the Caucasus jihad’s leadership. This surely contributed to the absence of mass and civilian-targeted terrorism or any large-scale jihadi incursion into large population centers and the overall reduction of mujahedin activity across the North Caucasus in 2006. To be sure, if the important demise of Basayev was the result of an accident, then we must downgrade Moscow’s recent successes as less impressive, though still substantial. The jihadists’ own miscalculations may have contributed to their recent problems. They seem to have overestimated their capacity and appeal and, at a time when global jihadists are concentrating their resources on the U.S. and its allies, spread their resources too thin by expanding across the North Caucasus in 2004-05.

Moscow’s recent successes are also attributable to its efforts to divide and co-opt an increasingly factionalized insurgent coalition and reduce the supply of recruits and moral support for it through somewhat better governance, reconstruction and development in the North Caucasus. Kadyrov’s replacement of Alkhanov in the presidency, combined with the amnesty, allowed the Kremlin to co-opt greater numbers of militants and former militants. Moscow’s stake on Kadyrov played on nationalist/Islamist, Sufi/Salafi, adat/Shariat and various teip cleavages drawing nationalists, traditional Sufis, and some clans to Moscow’s side. Moscow’s greater budget contributions towards Chechnya’s reconstruction, combined with Kadyrov’s authoritarian style to produce the short-term advantage of channeling greating funds into actual reconstruction. New leadership in many of the other North Caucasus republics, along with increased budget support from Moscow for economic development, may have a similar effect over the long-term and has already produced some promise of improved relations between the republics’ largely secular elites and Muslims.

All this said, any rumors of the Caucasus jihad’s imminent demise might be exaggerated. Despite the demise of Sadulayev and more importantly Basayev, the Caucasus jihad recovered some of its former vitality by summer 2007. The wave of jihadi attacks in Ingushetia and continuing insurgent activity in Chechnya and more sporadically elsewhere testifies to the Caucasus insurgents’ determination. In addition, the Umarov leadership seems to be exhibiting some ability to adapt in the new conditions. The recent focus on neighboring Ingushetia may be an effort to husband and focus limited resources. Facing limited resources and more effective Russian counterinsurgency coordination, the jihadists are showing signs of what might be regarded as adaptive desperation. Umarov’s October 2007 declaration of the Caucasus Emirate and jihad against the West is both a continuation of the radicalization trend that has been predominant within the ChRI since 2002 and a calculated gambit to refocus the global jihad’s attention on the Caucasus in terms of providing cadres and funds. This desperate financial straits could be addressed by the reported ransom of $8 million paid to emir Magas in exchange for Ingushetia President Zyazikov’s uncle kidnapped earlier in 2007 likely by the Ingushetia Sector. (RFE/RL, Vol. 11, No. 202, October 31, 2007)

In addition, Kadyrov’s assumption of the Chechen presidency also has down sides for Moscow that are likely to become more clear in the mid- to long-term. His rise to power in the republic is a victory of indigenous Chechen forces over Moscow and the siloviki as well. Although at present this development seems to fit into the broader consensus that Chechnya should remain a part of Russia, there is no doubt that Moscow’s move is part of a steep price it must pay in order to re-establish order in the war-torn republic. That Moscow needed to turn to such an unruly and potentially troublesome partner like Kadyrov suggests the limits of Moscow’s capacity to integrate the North Caucasus into the Russian state. Many both in Russia and the West have chided Moscow for not clamping down on human rights violations in the North Caucasus, and Grozny’s bad boy Ramzan is rightly regarded as a rather odious figure for a G-8 member to be coddling. However, Chechnya is one of many regions in the world where one’s choice of democratic partners are few. The West in Iraq and Afghanistan also has allied with less than democratic elements, including some that only recently were counted among the enemy.

More importantly, Moscow’s stake on Ramzan leaves Chechnya’s stability inordinately dependent on one rather unreliable man. Thus, Moscow’s effort to broaden its base of allies by forming battalions ostensibly loyal to it is understandable. However, it is reconstituting a set of competing, even mutually antagonistic armed groups not unlike that which helped lead to both the first and second wars. Moreover, the influx of former jihadists into pro-Moscow Chechen government and various Moscow- and/or Kadyrov-controlled security forces that resulted from the noted amnesty creates a condition of political meta-stability not stability. Remove Kadyrov or a disciplined Moscow from the mix, and Chechnya is likely to meltdown rapidly into more widespread violence.

The present situation also increases the potential for opposition from one or more of Chechnya’s various teips and factions or a violent regime split in Groznyi. This could lead to the defection of one or another party/battalion to the jihadists, especially if Moscow was take one side over another in a confrontation between Kadyrov and opposition forces. Moreover, in the event Moscow crushes Kadyrov’s aspirations for a fairly autonomous Chechnya and a larger political role for himself in the North Caucasus, he could revive separatism himself. After all, his father, a pro-Moscow Chechen president himself, was also a former resistance fighter.

It remains unclear whether in the wake of the Putin succession or under instability in Moscow caused by any change in Putin’s official status, Kadyrov will be able to maintain his dominant position on the Chechen political stage. What little support he has among Moscow’s siloviki is limited to perhaps a small circle of top leaders held together by Putin. Politicians with close ties to the siloviki have begun to openly challenge Kadyrov, questioning his rosy view of the state of affairs in Chechnya. Duma deputy Viktor Alksnis, known in the perestroika era as the  ‘black colonel’ for his defense of the Soviet army and occupation in the Baltics, denied that Kadyrov had returned peace to the republic, castigated him for “discrediting himself by his statements,” and declared his feeling of “shame for him.” (“Alksnis: Kadyrov obyavlraet v Chechne mir vo vremya voiny,” in Kavkazskii uzel, July 10,  2007; “Viktor Alksnis: Proiskhodyashchee v Chechne nel’zya nazvat’ mirnoi zhizn’yu,” in Regions.ru, July 10, 2007) Chairman of the Duma’s State security Committee Viktor Ilyukhin accused him of substituting “wishes for reality.” (“Viktor Ilyukhin: Kadyrov pytaetsya vydat’ zhelaemoe za deistvitel’noe,” July 10, 2007)

It is no wonder that Kadyrov is searching for ways to buttress his power by seeking out new Moscow allies outside the siloviki. As of writing, Kadyrov had met during the run-up to the federal election only with those high-ranking, potential Putin successors who stand outside the core siloviki of Putin’s Petersburg clans: First Deputy Premier Dmitrii Medvedev and Federation Council Chairman and ‘A Just Russia’ party chairman Sergei Mironov. By contrast, he had not met with the most likely successor, First Deputy Premier and silovik (as former Defense minister and FSB Chief) Sergei Ivanov.

Kadyrov is also planning to conduct a referendum along with the December 2007 Duma elections that will propose extending his term of office from four to five or even seven years. But this will only put off, not avoid the mandatory end-of-term review of his performance by the Kremlin. Regardless, the Kremlin can undertake a mid-term review anytime the president chooses Kadyrov has served his purpose. As Kevin Leahy notes, this explains his repeated calls for a third Putin term. (Leahy, 2007) What Kadyrov might do should a decision be taken to remove him from office is anyone’s guess, but Kadyrov’s fortunes are likely to be worse once out of office. Thus, he could very well opt to hold on to power at any cost, with unpredictable consequences for the Chechen republic and the staggering but still standing Caucasus jihad.

_____________________

FOOTNOTES

[1] See Russian journalist Masha Gessen’s statements to the BBC in Haslett, BBC News, October 9, 2006 and Prague Watchdog online co-director Tomas Vrsovsky’s comments in Bigg, RFE/RL, October 9, 2006.

[2] Politkovskaya wrote about Ramzan’s use of his security force to intimidating all of the candidates opposing his father, in particular the cowing of Burayev’s police in Achkoi-Martan. Burayev polled fourth behind the elder Kadyrov with 3 percent of the vote and charged fraud in the election. Politkovskaya, in Novaya gazeta, August 14, 2003.

[3] Within months he had replaced the Shatoi, Vedeno, and Nozhai-Yurt ROVD chiefs. See “New Police Chief Appointed to Nazhai-Yurtovsky District,” Retwa.org, August 22, 2007.

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Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation. He is also Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View and Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California. Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics and publishes the Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report (IIPER) at CSIS at http://csis.org/program/russia-and-eurasia-program. Dr. Hahn has been a visiting scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. (2011-2013), the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. (1995 and 2005), and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, San Francisco State, and St. Petersburg State (Russia) Universities.

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About Gordon M. Hahn