It has become commonplace for Ramzan Kadyrov’s public statements to be less an expression of his own views and more of a way for one of the Kremlin cliques to shed light on yet another possibility of what will happen to the Russian Presidency in 2008 . Two birds are killed by this one stone – the reaction to a particular approach becomes known, while at the same time there is no need to make any sort of explanation in the media, since no one criticizes a man like Kadyrov.
Vladimir Putin’s upcoming exit from power is spoken of so frequently by high-ranking individuals that one starts to question its reality. If President Putin does leave power, he will do so only to remain close to it and keep alive the possibility of coming back in the name of “saving” his legacy. And though Ramzan Kadyrov might not be the best candidate for putting out feelers regarding Putin’s continued presidency, he is a man that is definitely part of Putin’s political team. In fact, if Putin is no longer President, Ramzan’s political future is even bleaker than it may first appear.
It is possible that if political power in Moscow changes hands the whole system built for Putin in Chechnya and currently ruled by Kadyrov will simply fall apart like a house of cards. From the very outset, Moscow never created even an illusory form of opposition in Chechnya and yet, also worked to eliminate all obstructions in the path of the young pawn of one of the Kremlin’s cliques. Kadyrov’s backers are led by Vladislav Surkov, the deputy director of the Kremlin’s administration and one of the chief creators of Putin’s domestic ideology (www.surkov.info). The external implementation of this ideology is regulated by other people, many of whom are bound to butt heads if Putin leaves the Presidency. Whoever the new President might be, he will have to learn to work with the entire Kremlin crew, but is eventually bound to choose one of the competing groups within the elite.
If the Surkov group is chosen and remains at the helm of Russian domestic policy, Kadyrov can be expected to remain in power and continue his policies of creating a facade of contentment, despite widespread unemployment and the total disregard of human rights. Essentially, a system based on the Kremlin’s wholesale support will allow him to reign for an unlimited time, something that will do little good for either Russia or Ramzan Kadyrov himself. Given this outcome, the practice of laundering money through the Chechen sinkhole will eventually end. Kadyrov himself has said that Moscow launders close to 90 percent of the money being sent to Chechnya in the form of aid. If, during the first Chechen War (1994-96), this type of activity was episodic and relied on faked identities and offshore accounts, in this second Chechen War a well-oiled machine accustomed to laundering massive sums of money is in action. Where this money goes is known only to a small circle close to the Kremlin’s chief ideologue.
Should the opposing grouping, led by the other deputy director of the Kremlin’s administrations Igor Sechin, be chosen, Ramzan Kadyrov’s fate is bound to be a sad one. The “security” (closely affiliated with the military and the GRU) group to which Sechin belongs has, putting it mildly, a low opinion of Kadyrov since it has been cut out of the Chechen money-making scheme. The money in question numbers in the billions and it seems that amounts of this size do make certain sacrifices acceptable. A change in Chechen leadership would bring to power those men closely tied to the “security” clique, including the Yamadaev brothers (Sulim and Ruslan) and Said-Magomed Kakiev, as well as other candidates who intend to change local politics. That said, this change would be fairly superficial, since the money laundering would continue unimpeded.
It is possible, even likely, that persons close to the FSB will rise in stature. Much of the “governmental hierarchy” built by Putin has been created out of his KGB colleagues and former classmates, men chosen for their personal loyalty. Among the Chechens, there are many who would fit this description, but the most famous is Movladi Baisarov, who was functionally chased from the republic by Kadyrov in order to prevent Baisarov’s interference in the entrenchment of Ramzan’s authority. Following the disarmament of his fighters, Beslan was stripped of the businesses he had created while fighting in the battles for Grozny on the side of the Federal forces . This particular clique, however, does not have a great deal of apparent power right now, as shown by the way they were forced to surrender “their man” after telling him to make loud anti-Kadyrov declarations in the press . The execution of Baisarov indicates that Kadyrov’s backers are so powerful that they can afford to destroy one of the FSB’s men in the middle of the capital city without even bothering to fake an investigation. What we are seeing here is a scene from the Soviet past, a time when the Kremlin played whatever game the party leadership found advantageous. The current “shadow leader” also plays the game according to the rules of the Soviet Communist party, making it fairly easy to predict what he may undertake.
By offering one potential presidential candidate after another, the Surkov clique simply plays a game with everyone. The real candidate will be revealed at the end of this year and will probably be a completely unexpected figure. This unexpectedness is what the Kremlin is counting on, since it will add zest to the propaganda and, when combined with Putin’s endorsement, put the real candidate out of reach of his competitors. He will simply ride the current President’s wave of popularity to victory. This leads to the question of what this yet unknown candidate will do for Chechnya. What will happen to the republic during his time? It is probable that in the short term Putin’s successor will need to show loyalty to the policies of his predecessor and thus try to act as similarly as possible to Vladimir Putin. This continuation of Putin’s style and manner will guarantee the support of the Kremlin cliques. But eventually he will be forced to choose and this choice of allies will determine the future of Russia and also the future of Chechnya. Today, Ramzan Kadyrov does a fair job of acting as one of Vladimir Putin’s mouthpieces and tries hard to extract all possible benefits from this position. But the wait for the new President of the Russian Federation is a lottery for him – either he will win everything or lose everything. There is no middle ground.
In the near future, Kadyrov will probably remove a few men that have been previously associated with his following from their posts. Musa Umarov is one such example, since he is no longer necessary as a balance between the FSB and Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Umarov is one of the Ministry’s men, as well as an important executive who once headed the “Krasnyi Sukonshik” concern. His legislative term ends in 2009, but he is currently out of favor with Ramzan . The next significant steps taken to reform the government in Chechnya will follow the planned referendum and will also serve to underpin Kadyrov’s power .
All of this means that any discussion of Chechnya’s future can only be conducted in the present tense, since the future is wholly dependent on Moscow and the distribution of influence in the Kremlin. Regardless of who wins in the Kremlin, no systemic change in Russian policy will occur, although small concessions are possible as a method of exacting concessions from the United States and the European Union.
1. Ramzan Kadyrov has frequently suggested that Putin’s time as president be extended.
2. Baisarovhoped to participate in Chechen elections, but the “Rodina” party, headed by Rogozin, refused to openly confront Ramzan Kadyrov and did not nominate Baisarov as a party candidate. See www.rodina-duma.ru, October 14, 2005.
3. Baisarov was shot by members of the Chechen Ministry of Internal Affairs in the center of Moscow on the evening of November 18, 2006, following the FSB’s withdrawal of its protection for him.
4. Umarov was erroneously considered one of Ahmad Kadyrov’s followers, but is in fact close to the Zavgaev clan.
5. Chechen authorities plan to hold a referendum changing several dozen aspects of the republic’s constitution in 2007.