The federal authorities have to change their policies in the Caucasus republics because present methods may only evoke old problems, analysts believe.
Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan have seen a rise of violence in recent months. President Dmitry Medvedev has recognized that measures that have been taken so far are not sufficient.
The situation “has shown signs of getting worse over these last months,” Medvedev said on August 26, answering journalists’ questions. The president added that the bandits, the underground armed groups, “had stepped up their activities,” and there had been “oversights on the part of the law enforcement agencies.”
“In my view, the situation does not call for any extraordinary measures, but there are certain nuances nonetheless that need to be addressed,” Medvedev stressed. He said law enforcement agencies were in the process of putting in place new organizational methods of fighting crime, including terrorism, in the Caucasus.
New laws that will help the judicial and investigations authorities to identify criminals and bring them to justice are being drafted, the president added. “In a number of cases, the response should be firm and irreversible,” Medvedev said.
Many analysts believe that the federal authorities have to change not only methods of fighting terrorism, but also to develop a new policy for the North Caucasus to change the situation for the better.
“Russian policies in the North Caucasus have not implemented a single task and returned to the problems that existed there ten years ago,” Gazeta.ru website wrote in an editorial. “None of the tested methods have worked, and new ones have not been invented.”
“Bloodshed in Ingushetia, Dagestan and Chechnya could be called war without any exaggeration,” the website said. The policy of force will only return the federal center to the issues it had in the past," Gazeta.ru wrote. “The number of ideas which the federal authorities have will at best make it possible to postpone the need to answer directly all ‘Caucasian’ questions," the website added.
“The most part of terrorist acts are directed against representatives of local power structures,” Oksana Goncharenko, analyst at the Center for Political Conjuncture, said. At the same time, local officials seem to be unable to change the situation that threatens them, observers note.
“The center has to undertake tough personnel measures,” Goncharenko said. “But reshuffles are not a panacea for solving the region’s problems.” Another issue is the poor efficiency of the cooperation of federal and local law enforcement agencies, she added.
Unemployment, large-scale corruption and unsettled inter-ethnic conflicts are among main factors that increase the social base of extremism, Goncharenko said. Demographic structure of the region with a large part of the young population, combined with unemployment and low living standards, create a potential for spreading radical Islamic ideas and increasing the number of people joining underground groups.
“In this context, it was quite natural for Dmitry Medvedev to raise a question about the need to change the model of management in the North Caucasus,” Goncharenko said. “The search for a new strategy by the federal forces will require the development of a structure of measures that consider specifics of all ‘dangerous’ republics,” she stressed. “There is no universal approach to solving the problem of extremism in the region.”
“The aggravation of the situation in the Caucasus has been inevitable,” Aleksey Malashenko, analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said. “All those problems that [Chechen President] Ramzan Kadyrov was trying to solve could not have been decided with the methods he has used,” he said.
“The policy of force worked well only until a certain moment. Now the resource is exhausted,” Malashenko told Gazeta daily. “It was already clear in February-March this year. Kadyrov said that there were not more than 50 bandits left in the republic, after which a counterterrorist operation was ended. Then all this began.”
Malashenko stressed that Kadyrov bet on the policy of force, and this was a mistake. There is no consensus in the republic [among elites], the analyst noted. “The same situation is in Dagestan and Ingushetia,” he added. “And terrorist acts are so frequent that people have got used to them.”
Mikhail Aleksandrov, head of the department of the Caucasus at the Institute of CIS Countries, thinks that lifting counterterrorist operation was one of the main reasons behind the recent wave of violence in Chechnya. “To prove that it is premature to speak about stability, radicals have stepped up terrorist activities,” he told Gazeta.
Some analysts say that other countries may be interested in the escalation of violence. They actually may influence the situation in the region, Aleksey Vlasov, general director of the Information and Analytical Center at Moscow State University, said. “But the main problem is still the poor state of the region itself,” he told Gazeta. “It is most obvious in Ingushetia.”
“The efforts of those who want to destabilize the situation from outside add to the potential that is being created inside the Caucasus republics,” Vlasov said. “The combination of these two factors has led to the situation getting beyond control.”
Without active assistance from the federal center it would be impossible to improve the situation, Vlasov thinks. “Resignations in Ingushetia’s law enforcement agencies show that Moscow understands this,” he noted.
Local officials are also trying to find new ways of solving problems in their republics. The Chechen authorities are persuading some prominent leaders of militants to change sides. They are in the process of talks with Akhmed Zakaev, former foreign minister of the group that called themselves the government of independent Chechnya. Zakaev, who has been living in London since 2002, was offered a return to Chechnya in exchange for amnesty.
It has not been a surprise for many to learn that Chechen militants have “sentenced Zakaev to death,” according to a statement on their website. They accused him of “forsaking Islam.”
Sergey Markedonov, deputy director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, believes that the sentence to Zakaev reflects a conflict of two ideologies. The first is the separatist ethnic nationalism, aimed at creating a sovereign Chechnya, and the second is a universal religious project that considers its struggle a part of a global jihad.
Those who have passed the sentence on Zakaev “are followers of the Caucasus Emirate, which was proclaimed in October 2007,” Markedonov writes on the Politcom.ru website. This “virtual state” is actually “a terrorist network structure,” created by the militant leader Doku Umarov. The “emirate” is supposed to include not only Chechnya, but other republics of the North Caucasus.
“It is quite clear and explicable as to why both Zakaev and Kadyrov have become enemies of Umarov’s followers,” Markedonov said. They represent “different directions of the same path – secular nationalism,” he added.
“Zakaev was building an independent Chechnya opposed to ‘the [Russian] empire’,” Markedonov wrote. “Kadyrov is realizing the project of a Chechen nation under the Russian flag, but actually out of the Russian political, legal, and socio-cultural (which is more important) space.”
Markedonov believes that the war of ideologies is being waged in the North Caucasus and federal center should rely upon on ideologists from moderate Islam rather than on law enforcement agencies to change the situation in the region.
Sergey Borisov, RT