Staunton, January 24 – Vladimir Putin has made his career as president by his efforts to keep Chechnya part of the Russian Federation, Andrey Piontkovsky says; but the result has been to transform Russia itself into a Greater Chechnya. The only way out, he suggests, is to offer Chechnya its independence.
The Russian commentator made that argument in an Ekho Moskvy blog post yesterday, but because his call for giving Chechnya its independence put that site at risk of falling afoul of Russian law, the editors have removed the last two paragraphs where he made that specific proposal (echo.msk.ru/blog/piontkovsky_a/1699370-echo/ and ruposters.ru/news/23-01-2016/prizyv-otdeleniyu-chechni).
Indeed, Piontkovsky argued in the passage that has been deleted from the Ekho Moskvy site but saved by screenshot, the only way to stop the ticking time bomb of a new Russian-Chechen war is “by the exit of Chechnya from within Russia and the exit of Russia from within Chechnya” by offering Grozny full state independence.
Twice, post-Soviet Russia fought in Chechnya to maintain the territorial integrity of Russia by keeping Chechnya a part of it. “But territorial integrity is not a scorched earth without people,” the commentator says, and fighting the way Moscow did, it showed the Chechens that Russia did not view them as equal citizens but just the reverse.
As a result, the outcome of the second Chechen war was “sad for Russia,” a defeat in which Vladimir Putin gave “all power in Chechnya to Kadyrov and his army,” allowing him to repress the Chechens, and continues to pay him “tribute” from the Russian budget in exchange for personal loyalty to Putin himself.
“Having unleashed and then lost the war in the Caucasus,” he continues, “the Kremlin paid tribute for submissiveness for show not only to Kadyrov but to the criminal elites of other republics.” And it tolerated the aggressive behavior of Kadyrov and of other Chechens who have concluded that in fact “Moscow lost the Caucasus war” and that they can behave as they like.
“The Kremlin all the same still lives by its phantom imperial illusions,” Piontkovsky writes, and “the local little tsars beginning with Kadyrov” that it pays for with Russian taxpayer money stay in the country only so that they can continue to receive this Kremlin “tribute.”
As a result, “the post-imperial campaign for ‘Chechnya within Russia’ by a cruel twist of fate turned into the nightmare of ‘Russia within Chechnya,’” a situation neither Putin nor Kadyrov can escape because Chechen independence would undermine Putin’s legitimacy in the eyes of Russians and by ending Russian tribute make Kadyrov’s continued rule impossible.
Many Russian liberals and opposition figures do not understand this linkage, and some of them in their attacks on Kadyrov rather than on Putin simply set the stage for the Russian siloviki, most of whom hate Kadyrov, to begin a new war in the Caucasus, however tragic that would be.
If the Russian siloviki get their way, Piontkovsky continues, it will mark “a return to 1999 and in a much worse initial position.”
What must be recognized, he says, is that after all the Russian actions against Chechnya, most Chechens hate Russians and after all Kadyrov’s statements and actions most Russians hate Chechens. As a result, “two ethnic groups with such firmly set attitudes toward one another cannot live in one state.” The time for that “has run out.”
According to Piontkovsky, “Kadyrov is committing a major error by exaggerating Putin’s possibilities to keep the situation under control;” and he has failed to see that “by his wild declarations and threats, [he] not only is not helping the boss but is increasing his isolation, setting against Putin not only the siloviki but all Russian society.”
Consequently, Piontkovsky calls for a divorce between Russia and Chechnya, one that would give Chechnya its independence. But that call, which appeared in the Russian commentator’s post yesterday, was quickly taken down by Ekho Moskvy lest it put itself at risk of being charged with promoting the disintegration of Russia.
But in the Internet age, taking such things down may be legally smart, but it is practically impossible. And screenshots of Piontkovsky’s original conclusion are now widely available online.