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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cowardly Kremlin Paying Protection to Chechen Warlords

Paul Goble reports that Russia has not "solved" its Chechnya problem, it is simply paying protection money to some gangsters, buying time. So much for "crushing them in their outhouses."

In exchange for declarations of undying loyalty from non-Russian leaders in the North Caucasus, Moscow has been sending the governments there ever more money even though these regimes act pretty much as they want and do almost nothing to make their territories safe for ethnic Russians. In a commentary posted on the website yesterday, Vladimir Tor points out that between 2002 and 2006, Moscow sent to Chechnya alone some 30.6 billion rubles (1.25 billion U.S. dollars) for reconstruction and to create the illusion of peace and stability there. But that level of funding, enormous relative to Moscow’s subventions to other parts of the Russian Federation is not enough for the Chechens: In July, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov asked Russian President Vladimit Putin to send 168.8 billion rubles (6.6 billion U.S. dollars) over the next four years. Elsewhere, Tor continues, the situation is the same or even worse. Moscow now provides 60.68 percent of the budget of the Adygei Republic, 67.16 percent of the one in Karachai-Cherkesia, 67.38 percent of the one in Kabardino-Balkaria, and 89.24 percent in Ingushetia, currently the most unstable of all.

In most cases, the Moscow commentator suggests, Moscow is not able to track effectively just where all these Russian tax dollars are going. But one measure of their lack of any real impact on the situation is the inability or unwillingness of these regimes to prevent ethnic Russians who have been living there from flight. Between the 1989 and 2002 censuses, he continues, the percent of ethnic Russians in the populations of the autonomous republics across the North Caucasus fell from 26 percent – a little over one in four – to only 15 percent – or one in six – and in some places the departure of ethnic Russians was even greater. In Karachai-Cherkesia, the percentage of ethnic Russians fell from 42 to 34 percent over this period; in Kabardino-Balkara, from 32 to 25 percent, in North Osetia-Alania from 30 to 23 percent, in Daghestan from 10 to five percent; in Chechnya from 25 to four percent; and in Ingushetia from 10 percent to one percent. And since 2002, these declines have continued, Tor insists, despite Moscow’s claims that the situation there is stabilizing, its enormous investments in the region, and its playing up of what the Russian government says are the commitments of the leaders there to do everything they can to keep ethnic Russians from leaving.

All this should lead the citizens of Russians to draw the following conclusion, Tor argues. “In recent years, the relations of the Kremlin with the Caucasus are based on the following [and in this Moscow analyst’s opinion completely false and unacceptable] principle. You live as you like,” Moscow says. “You live according to your own customs and laws. We in turn will send you bags of gold and won’t ask how it distributed.” All Moscow asks is that “you agree not to revolt against this arrangement and recognize our padi-shah as the wisest of the most powerful” of rulers. Such arrangements benefit both those in the Kremlin who want to proclaim victory in the North Caucasus and ask only for sufficient calm to distract attention from the continuing problems there, and those in the North Caucasus, who know a good thing when they see it and believe that Moscow is helping them build statehood. But it does not benefit either the ethnic Russians who have been forced to flee from places they had lived and worked for many years, Tor points out. And it does not benefit the Russian citizen who taxes go to support the North Caucasian elites rather than to meet their own needs.

Indeed, this Moscow commentator says, it is high time to “stop feeding [this North Caucasus] crocodile.” Continuing to do so won’t work: indeed, he suggests it may only end with the Russian people having subsidized a new group of states that won’t stay in Russia even if they are given enormous bribes. Nonetheless, Tor clearly does not expect this situation to change anytime soon. As in other areas, the Kremlin is ignoring the interests of Russian taxpayers. But those taxpayers themselves bear some of the responsibility for the continuation, even expansion of this unconscionable situation. Many of them, the Moscow commentator argues, are all too willing to be lulled by repeated Kremlin claims that at the present time, as the result of the wise policies of their rulers, “in the Russian Federation everything is stable!” and that “the residents of the Moskva-bad aul” can thus “sleep peacefully.”

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