October 22, 2005
CHECHNYA, Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia and now Kabardino-Balkariya: Once again, one of the republics of Russia’s North Caucasus region — places whose names were once almost unknown in the West — has become the scene of excruciating terrorist violence.
Following a pattern that has become familiar in the region, Islamic militants simultaneously attacked a group of targets last week in the city of Nalchik, capital of Kabardino-Balkariya, including three police stations, the city airport and the regional headquarters of Russia’s interior ministry police. More than 100 people were killed, a previously peaceful city was turned into a war zone and Russian troops were forced to set up a blockade around its periphery.
Just like the horrific attack on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, last year, the incident proves that the “stability” that the Russian government claims to have imposed on the Caucasus is a mirage. The insurgents seem, if anything, to be growing better organized, more numerous and more bloodthirsty. Their goals, once limited to the independence of Chechnya, have apparently expanded to include the destabilization of the entire region.
Local leaders — mini-strongmen, backed by the Kremlin — have cracked down on all forms of dissent, religious and political, thereby increasing the recruiting pool for the terrorist groups. Because more moderate Chechen separatist leaders are either in exile or dead, there is no obvious political solution to what is, despite Russian efforts to claim otherwise, a true crisis in the region.
The Russians still pick and choose whom they will recognize as an “authentic” political leader.
—The Washington Post