Akhmad Kadyrov’s late-January visit to Saudi Arabia, like his trip to New York and Washington last year, shows that he still enjoys Vladimir Putin’s strong support not only within Chechnya but also as a spokesman in foreign relations. A major goal of his trip was to persuade the kingdom to crack down on Saudi support for separatist fighters, both terrorists and non-terrorists, within Chechnya; working in his favor is the fact that many Islamic extremists are militantly hostile to the Saudi government. The size of Kadyrov’s delegation–which included such prominent allies of his as his new appointee to the upper house of the Russian parliament, and also Muslim clerics from Chechnya–suggested that he is laying the groundwork to present himself as Russia’s major envoy to the Islamic world. Conceivably, that is a role that he could continue to fill even if the Kremlin should decide to force him out of his position as boss of Chechnya.
According to a January 15 article by Aron Tsypin in Gazeta.ru, another objective of Kadyrov’s visit–important in both substance and symbolism–was to win Saudi subsidies for the rebuilding of Chechnya’s fragmented petroleum infrastructure, much of which is now effectively controlled by the separatists. Yet another purpose, Chechnya’s acting prime minister, Eli Isaev, told Musa Muradov of Kommersant, is to request help in finding positions for unemployed Chechen oil technicians as contract workers in Arab countries.