Finally, and most importantly: Ramzan must be put in his place. He is a regional governor of one of Russia’s eighty-five federal subjects, not the viceroy of the entire North Caucasus, and, despite what he may believe, certainly not the leader of an independent Islamic state. He is largely answerable only to Putin himself, which leaves the task of bringing him under control to the Russian president. His aggressive and provocative behavior has only grown more dangerous as time has gone on, not less. If Kadyrov is left alone, a return of large-scale violence and possibly open warfare in the North Caucasus, and Chechnya itself, seems almost inevitable.
If left alone, the apparent success of legally securing part of his neighbor will only embolden Kadyrov. It will spur greater involvement in Ingush affairs, and encourage him towards a similar resolution of Chechnya’s territorial claims in western Dagestan, where local elites in the city of Khasavyurt are firmly opposed to Chechen interference and where full-scale Chechen-Avar ethnic clashes nearly emerged last summer. It is no exaggeration to state, as one Chechen colleague did to me recently, that “questions of land are a fire that can ignite the whole Caucasus.” The ball is now in the court of Russian federal authorities. We can only hope they decide, at long last, to pull the reins on Ramzan Kadyrov.
Neil Hauer is a Canadian analyst and journalist based in Tbilisi, Georgia. His work focuses on politics, violence, and minorities in the North and South Caucasus, as well as Russian activity in Syria. Neil holds an MA on the former Soviet Union and previously served as senior intelligence analyst at The SecDev Group in Ottawa, Canada for three years.