By Paul Goble
One of Ingushetia’s most influential taips has circulated a video to all other clans in the republic that calls for annulling the border agreement signed by Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov and Ingushetia’s Yunus-Bek Kadyrov four days ago and demanding a referendum on the issue and on the way in which the republic leader is chosen.
The Archak taip says that the accord was the result of a secret “conspiracy” by the two leaders, that the Russian constitution requires a referendum on all border changes, and that residents of the republic can’t sit quietly given the threat to their republic this agreement represents (capost.media/news/society/ocherednoe-nedovolstvo-novymi-granitsami-chechni-i-ingushetii-uvidelo-svet/).
The earlier use of force against those protesting the accord, Yevkurov’s order to bloggers not criticize the agreement, and his defensiveness about suggestions he has given away too much are likely to add to the problems within his republics (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/326025/, ekhokavkaza.com/a/29517559.html, and onkavkaz.com/novosti/4873-evkurov-o-soglashenii-s-chechnei-nikto-nikomu-nichego-ne-otdaval-my-ustupili-drug-drugu-odinako.html).
But looming behind these immediate problems are two larger ones. On the one hand, there appear to be fears among some Ingush that Chechnya’s Kadyrov, possibly with Moscow’s support, is preparing to assume control over Ingushetia as part of a regional amalgamation plan based on the notion that economics rather than ethnicity should determine borders.
And on the other, there are concerns that Kadyrov may not limit himself to that but may demand territorial changes and political concessions from Daghestan, again possibly with Moscow’s support, to build up his own authority by offering to pacify that republic for Moscow, something the Kremlin appears to want.
Moscow political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin suggests both, pointing out that Kadyrov “can permit himself what for example Yevkurov cannot.” The Chechen leader is very effective in advancing his interests, including expanding his influence in and over neighboring republics and doing so “not without Moscow’s support (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/325871/).
But a fuller and more explicit discussion of these two possibilities is provided today by Ukrainian commentator Ruslan Vesel in an article entitled “The Chechen Empire. How Russia is Losing the Caucasus” in Kyiv’s Delovaya stolitsa (dsnews.ua/world/chechenskaya-imperiya-kak-rossiya-teryaet-kavkaz-28092018220000).
He argues that the border accord won’t calm he situation but rather lead to a new outbreak of conflict with greater force “after a certain time,” especially if Kadyrov presses his case and is not reined in either in Ingushetia or in Daghestan where there is a significant and often embattled Chechen ethnic community.
If Kadyrov were just speaking for himself, far fewer people in Ingushetia or Daghestan would be worried, Vesel says. But the Chechen leader appears to have Moscow’s backing to continue to push his own agenda and therefore undoubtedly feels that no on in the region can stop him from achieving his goals.
“The Kremlin needs to reward Kadyrov for his past” services in Chechnya and Ukraine “and his possible future ones” in neighboring Daghestan “where the Kremlin over the past year has been purging local elites” and where it may need Kadyrov’s help to prevent an explosion, Vesel continues.
“Ho this will end for the North Caucasus and for Russia as a whole,” the Ukrainian commentator says, “is difficult to say.” But the accord that was supposed to solve problems hasn’t, and “the Ingush, earlier considered a much more peaceful people than the Chechens hass learned a great deal from its neighbors.”
Those lessons are not ones that Moscow wants anyone to learn, and so more conflicts are certain to be ahead, possibly at a level of intensity not seen in the North Caucasus for more than a decade.