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The North Caucasus - Russia’s “secret” headache

Wednesday, October 29
Having undertaken its large- scale aggression against Georgia, Russia has created serious problems in the North Caucasus.

Almost daily information comes in, mostly from non-official sources, about explosions, attacks and even military operations in different autonomous regions of Russia, be it Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan or elsewhere. These incidents make the Caucasus look like a box of dynamite which could explode at any time if it isn’t handled with care. This unrest shouldn’t remain unnoticed by the West and the rest of the world, because it could have long term consequences for their own interests.

The West’s ‘ostrich position’ regarding Russia’s imperialistic moves has already backfired in Georgia, and what we saw here will definitely be repeated if the facts are not taken into consideration right now. Russia’s moves shouldn’t be considered as merely its “domestic affairs,” as they an affect a far wider neighbourhood. One reason more decisive action was not taken against the Russian invasion of Georgia is that the West knows this very well.

The informal representative of Chechnya/Ichckerya in Georgia, Hizri Aldamov, has stated that nothing extraordinary is happening in the North Caucasus as the present situation has been in place for a long time. Georgia has only now become interested in what is going on. Maybe Aldamov is right and there is nothing special going on now, but facts prove that the situation in that region is really very aggravated. The notorious 58th Russian Army has been sent to Ingushetia to “restore order.” As Ingush dissident Ibrahim Lianov reports, the armed forces are in every single town and “an operation is underway to exterminate the Ingush people.” Moscow plans to suppress the Ingush resistance through the hands of pro-Russian Chechen leader Kadirov, but the situation in Chechnya itself, as in Dagestan, is far from stable.

The Anti-Russian movement takes two forms in the North Caucasus. One is Islamic fundamentalism and the other nationalist-separatist. The latter form has been comparatively suppressed, due to the results of bloody war in Chechnya and the nature of the pro-Kremlin regime there. But the influence of religious fundamentalism has increased, and represents a danger for Moscow, which takes the contrary view that there is no power higher than its own.

Relations between North Caucasians and Georgians are controversial. Russia successfully implemented the ‘divide and rule’ policy by engaging many North Caucasian mercenaries in the war against Georgia in the ‘90s of the last century. In August it also used a regiment of Chechen fighters in its war against Tbilisi. Until recently Georgia expressed very little or almost no interest in North Caucasus affairs in order not to upset Moscow. But the recognition of two Georgian regions as independent states has put new issues on the agenda. Many analysts think that this has inevitably encouraged separatism within Russia itself, and indeed it is odd that Russia itself seemed unaware that the rules it applied elsewhere could also be applied to Russia by its own people. .

The Kremlin is trying not to publicize its problems in the North Caucasus, pretending nothing is happening. It wants to handle everything with its own 300,000 strong Army deployed and mobilized in the region. North Caucasians themselves want to draw the world’s attention to their cause and are planning to organize a rally in Brussels on October 31. Georgia is in an awkward position: supporting separatism in Russia would mean indirect support of Russia’s recognition of its own breakaway regions. So the best option for now is to calmly watch and wait.