Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 35

U.S. officials evidently gave Akhmad Kadyrov a cold reception during his recent visit to the United States as part of Russia’s delegation to the United Nations. Even a September 29 article in Kommersant, which tried to put the best face possible on Kadyrov’s trip, acknowledged that he spent most of his time in the UN complex in New York giving media interviews. If Kadyrov had any direct meetings with White House, State Department, or other U.S. officials–either individually or as part of a group–neither Washington nor Moscow is talking about them.

According to the Kommersant article, Kadyrov accompanied Russian President Vladimir Putin on his flight from New York to Washington so that they could discuss various matters en route to the United States. “The participation of Akhmad Kadyrov in the negotiations at Camp David was never stipulated in the formal schedule,” wrote Kommersant–leaving it unclear just how the Chechen leader spent his time in Washington, or whether he even had any activities outside his hotel room.

The Los Angeles Times offered a more dramatic version of the trip. According to a September 26 article by that newspaper’s correspondents Sonni Efron and Maura Reynolds, State Department officials discouraged Kadyrov from accompanying Putin to Washington. One of the reporters’ sources in the State Department told them on September 25 that the Chechen leader would not be allowed “to meet with anybody in this building.” The Russian side, however, was clearly hoping that Kadyrov would get some high profile meetings. As reported by Efron and Reynolds, “Russian Embassy spokesman Yevgeny Khorishko said Kadyrov would arrive in Washington with Putin today but that it was not clear whether he would be in Putin’s delegation to the meeting at Camp David….Khorishko said the Russians found it incomprehensible that the U.S. had met with what he called Chechen guerrillas and terrorists but had not requested meetings with Kadyrov.”

Contacted by Chechnya Weekly, L.A. Times reporter Reynolds said that, according to her sources, “as soon as U.S. officials realized Kadyrov was on Putin’s plane, they sent clear, back-channel signals that U.S. officials would not meet with him. Whether or not Russian officials ever hoped for such meetings, they got the message and did not formally request any.”

The Kommersant and Los Angeles Times articles do not directly contradict each other: Neither claims that Bush or his top aides had specifically scheduled a meeting with Kadyrov but then canceled it. It seems clear, however, that when Putin and Kadyrov left Russia for America they were hoping that they could coax or pressure Washington into giving the latter the legitimacy-building symbolism of some meetings with high-level U.S. officials, and that they were disappointed.