Policy Memos

Putin's War in Chechnya: Who steers the course?

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Each time a proposition is raised to resolve the Chechen conflict through negotiation, the Russian authorities respond with a double-riposte: We do not negotiate with terrorists, and there is nobody in Chechnya with whom to negotiate. The hostage tragedy in Beslan on September 1-3, 2004 revealed the real meaning of this rhetoric: no one in Moscow was ready to take responsibility for handling the crisis. The immediate response to the emergency and the following political measures (including the presidential initiative to abandon regional elections) were clearly inadequate.

This malfunctioning decisionmaking mechanism raises serious questions about its integrity, the chain of command, and the flow of information. The authorities show little if any interest in addressing these questions and concentrate their efforts on maintaining the façade of impeccably organized executive power. This paper attempts to examine the evolution of the decisionmaking system on Chechnya, while admitting that the answers provided here are not informed by any insight and are derived from speculative secondary sources, scarce official information, and observable cadre rotation. [...]

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About the author

Research Professor
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)