Troubleshooting Chechnya, Chapter III

Imagining Workable Solutions 

Why don’t you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace? You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers? No one has a moral right to tell us to talk to child killers.

-Vladimir Putin

Picture the following idealized scenario that portrays a move toward political stability in the war-torn Chechnya region. On March 29th, 2015, six women, strapped with bomb laden vests, are arrested at the Lubyanka metro station. This surprise apprehension comes on the five year anniversary of the Moscow subway bombing that killed 39 innocent people. Through collaboration with Chechnya’s FSB branch, and with information gained from defectors among separatist groups, the Kremlin is able to locate these women, known as the “black widows” of the Islamic International Brigade (IIB), and thwart their plan before more innocent lives are lost. Ironically similar to the bombing in 2010, this partnership between Moscow and Chechnya comes as something of a surprise to many Russians. Equally surprising is the fact that major structural shifts happened at all after the Moscow bombings.

So how did this idealized scenario come about? Through an equally idealized sequence of historical events. Following the 2010 bombing, Vladimir Putin began to issue new political reforms for Chechnya. The establishment of a term limit preceded the region’s first legitimate election in 2013. Consequently, a new semi-autonomous leader won the election, bringing violent relations between Moscow and separatists to a slow end. Collaboration between Putin and Chechnya also helped international organizations continue their pursuit of accountability for those responsible for past atrocities. This newly founded cooperation led to the arrest of many Russian federal officials and high ranking separatist leaders, largely due to their recently discovered role in violence against Chechnya civilians. Subsequently, many terrorist organizations from that region have lost their key international structuring because of this expanding relationship. Furthermore, the cessation of religious prosecution has begun along with the close monitoring of Russian authorities by U.N. advisors. The long awaited peace may finally come to the Chechnya region.

Putin realized, through this political cooperation, that observance of Islam as a major societal factor will greatly expand the relationship with Chechnya. He comprehended the extremely important role that religion has on the Chechen people’s collaborative identity. Although disputed by many representatives in Moscow, and despite their rebellious standing during the wars, Putin began to erect monuments in various cities commemorating the lives of largely influential Islamic leaders in Chechnya. In an effort to fuel economic strength, Putin also mandated that only Chechen construction companies build the complex mosques and monuments. Subsequently, Putin’s bonding with the civilian populace of Chechnya has helped destroy their long-standing support for the region’s fanatical extremists. Despite the shift in loyalty, Putin also acknowledged his government’s role in Chechnya’s anti-Russia sentiment.

As international humanitarian organizations continue to investigate human rights issues in Chechnya, a majority of blame has been shifting away from separatists and more towards Russian forces and those involved with them, specifically Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s illegitimately elected leader. Newer forensic technology has assisted in the identification of bodies found in mass graves around the area. Many of these bodies, previously thought to be separatist fighters, are now identified as innocent civilians. Most of the corpses, directly resulting from the forced disappearance counter-terror operations, contain letters addressed to multiple family members. Subsequently, as the amount of verified remains increases, Russian federal authorities find it harder to justify past operations. Seeing this as counter-productive to his previous agendas, Putin displayed no hesitation in handing out reparations to those responsible.

Realizing the ongoing shift in the local mindset, many separatists and their supporters have begun to assist in the reconstruction of their country, to include the capital city of Grozny. This support has largely helped in fighting the outdated Russian propaganda that portrays separatists as violent barbarians. Participating in legitimate elections and being backed by previously outcast groups has helped Chechens foster their goal of independence and individual identity.

The aforementioned scenario portrays an ideal end result in regard to the Chechnya situation. If peace is the ultimate goal in Chechnya, Putin must work more diligently at expanding positive relations with not only the civilian populace, but, more importantly, with those who are counter-productive to the primary objective. In the next chapter, these outlined solutions will be examined in relation to the current geopolitical situation and adapted to determine the most feasible outcome.

<<–Chapter 2  | Chapter 4–>>