Thursday, December 04, 2014

By the River of Death

"What is the name of this place,
I asked him.
Valerik, he answered me.
And translated into your language,
That would be... River of Death."

Lermontov

In a short while Vladimir Putin will make his state of the nation speech in the St. George's Hall of the Kremlin.

Perhaps in the chandeliered magnificence of this room, the Russian President may feel safe. He may make a rousing and grandiloquent speech making the case for Russian greatness. Perhaps he might offer an olive branch to the West that he has spent the past year excoriating, more likely he will add to the litany of grievance and envy he clearly feels.

Perhaps in the end it might not matter.

A few hours ago Chechen militants launched an attack against local police in Grozny. This is the second attack in a couple of months, but it comes at a very significant time for the situation in Chechnya.

Several of the most prominent figures in the ISIS rebellion in Iraq/Syria are of Chechen origin. There are swirling rumours about flights from Russia that came to Arbil with several of these fighters on board- the implication being that they came with the tacit blessing either of the Kadyrov faction in Grozny or even with the approval of Moscow. Certainly the seizure of the Bank of Iraq reserves from Mosul, which has largely financed the ISIS movement, was a very professional job.

The Putin government regularly expresses a sense that whatever the United States may do, or be rumoured to do, then Russia has the right to match. Thus when Kremlin supporting websites suggest that the US supported the Chechens in order to destabilise Russia, then Russia has the right to destabilise, for example, Iraq, in order to upset Western interests. The fact that they may loudly deny this, should leave one counting the spoons, given the topsy-turvy nature of current Russian propaganda.

Certainly there are wide rumours about what ISIS truly is, and who may be covertly backing them. One thing is not in doubt, Chechens are heavily involved. As ISIS comes under pressure from the US, and even from Iran, some pretty far-fetched alliances are clearly already in place.

Any blowback from the ISIS war would place Ramzan Kadyrov in a very dangerous position, and severely raise the temperature in the North Caucasus. 

Yet another headache for Putin to contemplate from his gilded podium in the Kremlin. 

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