If Vladimir Putin does not make major changes in his Chechnya policies after his expected reelection in March, many political pundits will be embarrassed. Among them is Aleksei Malashenko of the Moscow Carnegie Center. In a recent interview with Maksim Shevchenko of the journal Smysl (“Sense”), published on that journal’s website (at http://smysl.info/archive/16,17-2003/s_q772.esp), Malashenko said that Akhmad Kadyrov has failed to take advantage of the opportunity that the Kremlin had created for him by removing all obstacles to his election. “Kadyrov has not become the nation’s leader,” said Malashenko. “Everyone is dissatisfied with him.”
At the same time, observed Malashenko, the Kremlin does not want to “change horses in mid-stream.” He predicted that there would be no basic changes in the federal center’s relations with Kadyrov before March, but that if the latter does not “seriously change course” Chechnya will soon be at risk of an “explosion.” Some of Malashenko’s sources, however, believe that Kadyrov has become so confident of his position that he will be demanding that Moscow meet his own conditions. One possibility is that he will be appointed as Russia’s representative to the international Islamic Conference.
If Putin should decide to replace Kadyrov, it will be difficult to decide how and with whom. Kadyrov himself is rumored to have said that he would like to see Malik Saidullaev as his successor–perhaps, Malashenko suggested, in order simply to neutralize Saidullaev and his supporters in Moscow. If Putin imposes his own choice against Kadyrov’s will, Malashenko thinks that he might pick someone from among Chechnya’s younger politicians, such as Abdulla Bugaev. He is a former member of Kadyrov’s cabinet and is one of the less well-known candidates in October’s rigged Chechen presidential election.