Policy Memos

Will Russia Go for a Military Victory in Chechnya?

Policy Memo:


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Six full weeks after the December 1999 parliamentary elections, Russian troops managed to raise their flags over the familiar ruins of the presidential palace in Grozny. Victory has been proclaimed yet again, but the discrepancy between the slow-moving and highly uncertain military operation and the fast-rolling and "satisfaction guaranteed" political campaigning has also become apparent. During autumn, politics and war had worked in perfect sync, making war-fighting a highly efficient election tool. By late December, however, the contours of an undesirable and unavoidable military deadlock had appeared, and Kremlin policymakers figured out that from then on, time would be working against them. Hence the surprise resignation of President Yeltsin, which not only provided Prime Minister Putin the advantageous position of acting president, but also set a new, shorter timeframe. However, even three months is a long time in politics, particularly with a military disaster in the making on your hands. The "election war" worked just fine for one election campaign, but has become a massive liability for the second one. Putin, who can hardly fool anybody (himself included) with victorious statements, now has more to do than just damage limitation. In order to evaluate his options, we need to take a closer look at the conduct and style of the second Chechen war on its many levels. [...]

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About the author

Research Professor
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)