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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW105 2006-01-11 15:03 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #0105/01 0111503
P 111503Z JAN 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 000105 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2016 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reason 1.4 (b, d) 
1. (C)  SUMMARY.  The North Caucasus is a crucible in which 
the weakness of the Russian state and its ambivalence about 
how to overcome that weakness are compounded.  In part thanks 
to its failed policy there, the challenge for Russia in the 
North Caucasus has changed over the last ten years.  Just 
after the Soviet collapse, advocates of separatism and 
nationalism could be found throughout this diverse region, 
but the only acute expression of those forces was in 
Chechnya.  Now, however, widespread alienation nourished by 
corrupt Russian security forces and narrow local elites has 
provided fertile ground for the growth of a new threat -- an 
Islamist ideology with the potential to unite fractious 
nationalisms throughout the entire region.  Chechnya is just 
one focus of these developments, though still the most 
virulent.  Russian analysts and some officials - including 
Presidential Representative Kozak - recognize the problems of 
Russian power, but Putin has aligned himself in his actions, 
although not always in his rhetoric, squarely with the 
security and military services that have dominated Caucasus 
policy since the Soviet collapse and that stress solutions by 
2. (C)  GOR ambivalence about a Western and particularly U.S. 
role in the North Caucasus should be seen in a wider foreign 
policy context.  The conventional wisdom among the security 
and military services ("siloviki") is that the U.S. seeks to 
weaken Russia, or even to cause it to fracture.  They see 
U.S.-financed democratization programs in the CIS as part of 
an updated containment policy intended to encircle Russia 
with hostile regimes.  Countering that conception of U.S. 
goals will be difficult, since many modes of engagement will 
only stimulate reflexive defenses and prove 
counter-productive.  Rather, we should find common ground to 
cooperate in areas where the U.S. interests and benefits are 
transparent: intelligence-sharing to combat al-Qaeda-linked 
groups operating in the North Caucasus; promotion of moderate 
Islam; and assistance focusing on economic development.  END 
"Graveyard of Russian Power" 
3. (C)  Nowhere is the Russian state's weakness clearer than 
in the North Caucasus.  Repeatedly since 1995 the world has 
seen large groups of terrorists and insurgents - armed with 
weapons bought from a corrupt Russian military - penetrate 
deep into core Russian territory, even into the Russian 
capital, onto Russian airplanes, across Russia's provincial 
and national borders, aided by the incompetence and 
corruption of local security forces, and by Byzantine 
government infighting.  Under Putin, the Russians have 
recognized that they are weak, but they have not determined 
what constitutes strength - and that dilemma, too, is being 
played out in the North Caucasus. 
4. (C)  Russia has relied on force and divide-and-rule 
policies in the Caucasus for centuries.  That region is often 
compared to America's Wild West, and like the old West it has 
been a place to make fortunes, often by criminal means. 
After the Soviet collapse, both the force and the fortunes 
remained, with many of the same figures playing roles both 
north and south of the mountains - but now with new and 
greater opportunities for crime and corruption.  Chechnya in 
particular served in the early 1990s as an entrepot for 
laundering illegal exports of oil bought in Russia at ruble 
prices (at that time, three percent of world market prices) 
and sold in the west for dollars.  The military and 
"siloviki" were deeply implicated in those schemes.  After 
the siege of the Russian White House in October 1993, Yeltsin 
tried to regain control by force, culminating in the Chechnya 
war of 1994-96.  Though Yeltsin walked away once Russia's 
forces were defeated, that project was renewed in 1999 with 
new determination, and it played a key role in building 
Putin's image as a strong and resolute defender of Russia's 
territorial and national integrity.  With that much emotional 
investment and prestige on the line and so many buried bodies 
- both literally and figuratively - it is not surprising that 
Putin, the siloviki and the broader political class have 
resisted turning away from a reliance on force and towards a 
search for compromises.  That reluctance has only been 
enhanced by the widespread perception that the last time 
political compromise was tried, it led to unacceptable 
5. (C)  Over the years, however, the North Caucasus' 
challenges to Russia have evolved.  As the Soviet Union 
collapsed, the main initial challenge was ethnic separatism. 
Despite warnings of fragmentation without end, separatism had 
natural limits.  Only the Chechens - the largest and toughest 
MOSCOW 00000105  002 OF 004 
of the North Caucasus ethnic groupings - would fight.  All 
the other groups were smaller and were engros
sed in struggles 
against one another, such as the Ingush-Ossetian conflict. 
Each wanted Moscow on its side.  Moreover, all feared an 
assertive, armed, independent Chechnya more than Moscow, and 
they could be divided and ruled.  Now, however, jihadi 
Islamism is the growing challenge.  As an ideology, Islamism 
has the potential to unite most of the disparate groups of 
the Caucasus.  Most of the recent attacks linked to Shamil 
Basayev have taken place outside Chechnya, and at least one 
observer (Aleksey Malashenko of Carnegie) reports that many 
of Basayev's new recruits are Dagestanis.  In Nalchik last 
October, disaffected locals made common cause with Basayev. 
6. (C)  During his December 12 visit to Chechnya, Putin 
proclaimed that Wahhabism - jihadi Islamism - was not native 
to the Caucasus.  He was right; it is a foreign implant. 
Some part of its success can be ascribed to the worldwide 
rise of jihadism.  But it is Russian policy that has expanded 
the potential for Wahhabism to find a haven in the North 
Caucasus, by denying economic opportunities to the population 
and extirpating political alternatives.  Over the last few 
years, Russia has repeatedly ousted local leaders with 
independent bases of support - such as Aushev in Ingushetia 
and Dzasokhov in North Ossetia; Kokov was forced out in 
Kabardino-Balkaria, and the position of Magomedov in Dagestan 
looks shaky.  Each of those cases has had internal reasons, 
but the pattern remains consistent.  As a member of the 
Presidential Administration told us, the Kremlin is ensuring 
that new appointees "will not be in a position to disregard 
or countermand orders coming from Moscow." 
7. (C)  Moscow's new appointees have power bases in Moscow 
and are figures more in line with the "vertical of power" 
that Putin has sought to develop throughout Russia.  Of the 
new appointees, only longtime Ossetian politician Teymuraz 
Mamsurov appears to have local roots - but nominally 
Christian Ossetia, for hundreds of years Russia's ally 
against the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus, presents neither 
a local nationalist threat nor a friendly environment for 
jihadi Islamism.  Other new appointees include Moscow 
billionaire Arsen Kanokov in Kabardino-Balkaria and KGB 
officer Murat Zyazikov in Ingushetia.  Widely viewed as 
corrupt and resting their power on a narrow elite backed by 
Moscow's security services, all the North Caucasus rulers 
have tried to wipe out threats to their power while 
neglecting the economic and political development of their 
8. (C)    The new appointees have taken their cue from 
Moscow's conflation of jihadi Islamism with Islam in general. 
 By acting as if Islam itself were the threat, these rulers 
have contributed to the radicalization of a critical mass of 
the youth.  Today's younger generation in the Caucasus faces 
a devastating lack of legitimate employment opportunities, 
and the resulting idleness and hopelessness are fertile 
ground for radicalization.  In multi-ethnic Dagestan, whose 
stability depends on a fragile "Lebanon-model" power-sharing 
arrangement among the principal ethnic groups, Moscow's 
attempts to impose electoral reform in line with "the 
vertical of power" threaten the delicate balances that have 
kept the peace so far.  The broader North Caucasus is 
increasingly coming to resemble the model developed in 
Chechnya over the last few years:  narrow elites imposed by 
Moscow rule for their own benefit over a terrorized and/or 
radicalized populace. 
9. (C)  Comparisons are sometimes made between Russia's 
challenge in Chechnya and the U.S. challenge in Iraq.  Parts 
of those tasks are similar:  marginalizing the 
irreconcilables, persuading their supporters to choose 
neutrality, and persuading the neutral bulk of the population 
to support the government through political development that 
is given breathing space to grow by security measures.  But 
there are two insurmountable differences: 
-- Whatever Americans may undertake in Iraq, we see ourselves 
as an extra-regional actor there and have proclaimed that 
ultimately Iraqis are responsible for Iraq's future.  The 
North Caucasus has been part of Russia for 150 years, and 
Russia has no intention of renouncing its self-assigned 
responsibility for the future of the region, or of allowing 
any disentanglement of Chechnya's politics, and those of the 
rest of the region, from Russia's own politics.  With that 
entanglement comes the vulnerability of the region to 
Russia's difficulties in emerging from weakness and 
-- While the U.S. has pursued a "roots-up" democratic process 
of inclusion in Iraq as the way to "Iraqify" the security 
struggle and put Iraqis in control of their fate, Russia has 
MOSCOW 00000105  003 OF 004 
chosen a top-down "vertical" process to Chechenize the 
security struggle and place the political project - as an 
extension of the security project - in the hands of a narrow 
and non-inclusive group of appointees, most notably Ramzan 
Kadyrov and his ruthless thugs, who owe their position to 
Moscow's politics. 
10. (C)  Many Russian analysts and officials understand these 
problems.  The Ambassador came away from his initial meeting 
last fall with Dmitriy Kozak, Putin's Plenipotentiary 
Representative to the region, with the impression that Kozak 
has a clear-eyed understanding of the failures of Russian 
policy.  That meeting followed Kozak's report to Putin in 
June 2005, warning of the dangers of clan politics in the 
North Caucasus and recommending direct presidential rule (a 
recommendation that quickly died).  Putin Advisor Aslambek 
Aslakhanov, himself a Chechen, also agrees with many of these 
criticisms.  But Putin's actions indicate that he remains 
aligned with the "silovik" policies that have dominated 
Russian policy towards the Caucasus since the collapse of the 
Soviet Union.  Those policies go along with a portrayal of 
the issue as simple terrorism against the historical backdrop 
of Russia's centuries-long struggle (often cast as its 
"protection of Europe") against "Tatars" and "Muslims."  As 
Sergey Ivanov (now Defense Minister) proclaimed at the Munich 
Security Conference as early as February 4, 2001: "Russia, a 
front-line warrior fighting international terrorism in 
Chechnya and Central Asia, is saving the civilized world from 
the terrorist plague in the same way as it used to save 
Europe from Tatar-Mongol invasion(s) in the 13th century, 
paying with sufferings and privation."   Putin has just 
appointed Ivanov overseer of reconstruction efforts in 
Challenge for the U.S. 
11. (C)  The continued predominance of the "silovik" 
worldview sharply limits what the U.S. can productively do in 
the North Caucasus.  It casts the U.S. as a conscious and 
active threat to the Russian state.  American financing of 
democracy movements in the CIS "paid off" with the Rose 
Revolution in Georgia and the Or
ange Revolution in Ukraine. 
Those "color revolutions" represent a policy of 
"neo-containment" aimed at surrounding Russia with "hostile 
regimes" that aspire to join NATO and complete the military 
encirclement of Russia.  With regard to the North Caucasus, 
the most fissile part of Russia, the siloviki see the U.S. as 
moving beyond "neo-containment" and threatening Russia's 
territorial integrity.  Many in the GOR will understand (and 
present to the Russian public) any U.S. engagement in the 
North Caucasus in this light, and will reject any 
"altruistic" explanations of our policies out of hand. 
12. (C)  U.S. policy must proceed in these circumstances 
based on transparency and with initiatives where the Russians 
understand the benefits to us, as well as to Russia.  They 
can include: 
-- Enhanced intelligence-sharing on al-Qaeda-linked terrorist 
networks, including facilitators and financiers.  The 
resources Washington can bring to bear on these issues are 
more sophisticated and extensive than those Russia has at its 
disposal, and in the free-flowing world of terrorist 
"networks of networks," facilitators may have links to 
networks in scattered parts of the world - including both the 
North Caucasus and areas of more direct interest to the U.S. 
-- Promotion of moderate Islam.  We should work with the EU 
and moderate Arab/Muslim states (such as Jordan) to draw 
Russia into an effort to enable the moderate center of Islam 
to hold against the extremists.  As EU countries begin to 
work with their own extensive Muslim populations on this 
project, Russia can benefit from and potentially contribute 
to their experience.  Moderate Arab states can help provide 
educational opportunities, and the U.S. can help with seed 
money for scholarships and exchanges.  Exchanges are the most 
valuable tool we have at our disposal in this effort, and 
should not be limited to religious issues:  all exchange 
opportunities, especially educational opportunities in the 
U.S., can help offset the influence of radical Islamism. 
-- Supporting UN and EU efforts and multi-donor assistance in 
the North Caucasus.  While Russian sensitivities and security 
concerns will continue to limit what we can undertake 
ourselves, we can mitigate those problems by working through 
the UN and with the EU and other donors as well as 
international and local non-governmental organizations. 
During the past year, donors have increasingly engaged the 
GOR in a discussion about moving from humanitarian assistance 
in Chechnya and the North Caucasus to a program of 
MOSCOW 00000105  004 OF 004 
rehabilitation and development.  The goal is to create jobs 
and improve education and delivery of health, while 
strengthening the constituency for peace and providing the 
Russians alternative models for their own efforts in the 
region.  The UN has called for an increase of development 
assistance to USD 80 million.  The U.S. has doubled its 
assistance from USD 5 million in humanitarian aid to more 
than USD 10 million to support immunization programs, 
agriculture credit, education and community efforts.  U.S. 
involvement has been welcomed locally, and even (to a more 
limited extent) at the Federal level.  In a non-threatening 
way, it can show the Russians alternative approaches to 
stabilizing the region. 
13. (C)  Russia is not succeeding in the North Caucasus, and 
its problems are growing wider and deeper.  Over the last 15 
years its efforts there have failed to stabilize the region 
and have had a corrosive effect on Russian democracy.  Its 
policies are adaptations of the old Russian strategies of 
force and divide-and-rule, compounded by nostalgia for the 
imperial past, stagnation and corruption.  That strategy is 
likely to remain in place until a crisis forces its 
replacement, but it is important to lay the groundwork for 
alternative approaches.  America's role will remain limited, 
but we need to stay engaged in a constructive and realistic 
manner that promotes our interests. 


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