Outside view: Nalchik shakes Russian elite
By Vasily Kononenko
Oct 18, 2005, 19:00 GMT
MOSCOW, Russia (UPI) -- The bloodbath in Nalchik has upset the Russian political elite. In terms of its toll of dead and wounded the attack by numerous Islamic militants is comparable only to the Beslan tragedy in North Ossetia of Sept. 1, 2004. Early comments on what happened on Oct. 13-14 in Kabardino-Balkaria sound gloomy: If militants are continuing massive attacks despite a heavy troop presence in the area, the law enforcement system is either sick or incapacitated. These views are shared by State Duma deputies, including those from the North Caucasian republics, and many political analysts. Here are some of them.
Gennady Gudkov, member of the State Duma`s security committee, United Russia, says: 'Let our law enforcement bodies clean up their act. Corruption is cause No.1'
Zarubi Nakhushev, State Duma deputy from Kabardino-Balkaria, United Russia, says: 'Some members of the Jamaat (an extremist Wahhabi organization) were first detained by law enforcement officers but later released ... Understandably, for money.'
Alexander Sharavin, director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, member of the Academy of Military Science, says: 'Corruption in the North Caucasus is so widespread that no power vertical is in a position to wipe it out. A general-governorship could help -- at least until life returns to normal.'
Viktor Ilyukhin, member of the State Duma`s security committee, says: 'What happened in Nalchik was an insurgency to seize power. We cannot sit idle while the North Caucasus is being forcibly wrested from Russia. We should reinforce our security agencies and administration.'
But general assessments of the situation in the North Caucasus differ radically from the cause-effect logic just set out. Many politicians, including those in the West, immediately recalled that President Vladimir Putin began setting up his power vertical right after the Beslan tragedy, with gubernatorial appointment as its key element.
The following conclusion is drawn: The Nalchik attack is the last proof that the measures adopted by the Kremlin following Beslan do not work. Some hot heads rushed to offer the North Caucasus self-determination, up to and including a sort of 'Islamic caliphate.' In effect, exactly what has been sought over the past 10 years by Wahhabis and Chechen separatists. They have been eyeing this nice and neat republic since 1996 to implode it.
On Oct. 19, the Russian State Duma is to meet in a closed session to look into the Nalchik tragedy. Deputies, mainly from opposition parties, summoned representatives of law enforcement bodies to account for their failures. As before, there will surely be enough reproaches for incompetence and 'absence of a consistent ethnic policy in the North Caucasus.' But no public flogging can radically remedy the situation. At the root of the problem lies the federal administration`s inability to put the local clans under control. This specific, closed system of ruling by local clans in the North Caucasian republics now stands in the way of an elementary civilized order in the region. <!--page-->
Last summer some excerpts from a report drawn up for the president by presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dmitry Kozak, leaked into the press. The report summed up six months of the man`s stay in the area.
Kozak describes the situation there as follows: 'Corporate interests in power structures have monopolized political and economic resources,' the report says. 'In all North Caucasian republics, people who hold leading positions in administration and the economy are blood-related. As a result, the system of checks and balances does not work here, and corruption is rife. ... Unchecked administrative command breeds public apathy. In many Federation members of the region administrations are lacking grass-roots support.'
These are the disheartening conclusions made by one of Putin`s most trusted men. Soon afterwards, the president met in conference with North Caucasian republican leaders, and the words 'clans' and 'corruption' were bandied about freely before TV cameras.
(Vasily Kononenko is a political commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.)
(United Press International`s 'Outside View' commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)