The Russian Federation represents one of the main international players that can influence global stability and security. From the deteriorated relations with the West to the prospect of an armed confrontation with Ukraine, the Kremlin is facing several challenges in the process of asserting its geopolitical ambitions. And while many geopolitical analysists are focused on the external factors, the reality is that Russia is facing several internal challenges as well. One of those is the issue of the Chechen Republic.
Both two more recent conflicts in this region were costly for the Kremlin. The First Chechen war can be described as Russia’s Vietnam, while the second Chechen War resulted with a hard-fought Russian victory after a decade of armed confrontations. These two Chechen conflicts have reshaped Russia, Chechnya, and the whole Caucasus region. Yet, the question mark is why the Chechen Republic is so important?
Background and Current Situation
In order to better analyze the issue, it is important to take a closer look at the current and past political and security situation in the Chechen Republic. On that note, it is important to emphasize that the Republic is officially ruled by president Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov (the son of the late Akhmad Kadyrov). This former rebel leader was the key in the Second Chechen War as his insurgent faction sided with the newly elected Russian prime minister (at the time) Vladimir Putin. As soon as Kadyrov was old enough to run for president, he was elected as the ruler of the Authonmonys Chechen Republic.
These events are crucial for the current situation in this area. Moreover, the Putin-Kadyrov alliance resulted in the pacification of the so-called Chechen Separatist movement. Furthermore, the Kremlin managed to ensure this pacification state inclusively through the iron fist of Ramzan Kadyrov.
Nevertheless, there is high uncertainty to which extent the Chechen people supported separatism. On all elections, they voted for a candidate that was supported by the official Kremlin. Yet, the republic today is de-facto an independent state. It is based on embracing a strong and distinguished national and religious identity while still being a formal part of Russia.
The Importance of Chechnya for Russia
The impact of the separatist Chechnya on contemporary Russia reaches far beyond the republic’s territorial borders.
That is why the Russian interest in the Chechen Republic can be observed from a few different perspectives. The first notion can be strictly seen through the prism of security and regional importance. To be more specific, the Chechen region is right next to the more important and strategic Dagestan that has high oil and gas reserves. Moreover, the Dagestan region is right on the Caspian Sea. In other words, the Chechen area is key for the Russian energy sector in the process of extracting and transporting the Caspian resources.
The second segment portrays the Russian interests in the Chechen Republic is closely related with the survival of the Russian Federation. This may sound like a confusing thesis as this small area can be seen as David vs. the Russian Goliath.
However, the reality is that Chechnya is only a part of a greater North Caucasus community. On that note, it is important to emphasize that this region includes similar nationalities with each aiming for a greater autonomy and self-governing. In other words, there is a danger that the potential Chechen independence can prompt a disintegration process that could spread to other regions. For example, dangerous separatist organizations were also observed in Tataristan and the emerging Circassian nationalism.
Simply said, the Chechen issue has the potential to create a domino effect in the complex Russian regions and can galvanize the separatist movements across the vast Russian Federation. And based on the current geopolitical situation where Russia is involved in Syria, Ukraine, an internal insurgency is something that should be avoided at all costs. Maintaining a pacified Chechen Republic is the main step that will ensure the internal stability of the Federation.
Current and Future Challenges
The Chechen Republic represents a complex issue that can have a significant effect on the overall geopolitical situation in the whole region. The Kremlin and the Putin – Kadyrov alliance were able to suppress the bulk of the Chechen separatism. Yet, with the rise of the Islamic radical ideology, it seems that there are a new security and social threats for the Russian and the Chechen leadership.
This challenge for the Chechen society is still in roots as the Islamic State and the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda have been active in recruiting fighters in the Caucasian region. Moreover, there has been a surge of terror attacks in this Russian Republic that includes attempted suicide bombings, a car ramming, and raids on a police station.
For all these actions, the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility. According to local officials, young children are even recruited and brain-washed by this radical Islamic ideology.
This state in the Chechen Republic should be a red alert for the Kremlin leadership. The North Caucasian Region represents a fertile ground for the spread of the radical Islamic ideology. Moreover, with the increased number of terror attacks and the radical ideology in Dagestan, it seems that the Russian Federation may face a more complex problem than the two Chechen Wars for Independence.
The Chechen Republic represents one of the main areas of interests of the Russian Federation. However, it is becoming clearer that another set of complex issues are coming out on the surface. The Putin – Kadyrov alliance was successful in the process of pacifying the Chechen nationalism. Yet, it seems that the radical sectarian Islamic ideology will be the main challenge for the peace and prosperity of this Russian Republic.
Image Credit: President of Russia Website