Last week, we see yet another violent manifestation of Russia as a deteriorating state in the Nalchik Raid; Nalchik is the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, about 870 miles south of Moscow. Unlike in Beslan or the Moscow Threatre, this time it was a large force of 300 fighters concentrating their attack police stations and other government and security related facilities
As I wrote on “Eurasia” earlier, the Southern front was Russia’s soft underbelly with a growing EU/NATO in the Western front and a raising East in the Eastern Front (see map below). Proponents of the “Clash of Civilizations” would say this is another case of Islam’s bloody borders. This are unfortunately more complicated.
As reported by WSJ, “officials in Nalchik said almost all the rebels were from Kabardino-Balkaria.” The attacks were on symbols and instruments of state authority: the “three police stations, the headquarters of the local FSB (the former KGB), the interior ministry building, the offices of the city’s prison guards, a military unit guarding the airport and a counter-terrorism centre.” (link.)
This is not an example of “Islam’s Bloody Borders” nor an act of terrorism, this was more of a guerilla war driven largely by the inhabitants of the Karbido-Balkaria Republic against the authorities at Nalchik, the capital. In other words, this is more than a co-ordinated car bomb attack against shopping centres or holding-up a threatre, this was more akin to the conventional act of war, civil war.
The Muslim Caucasus region has been frought with incompetent and corrupt authorities, an oppressive government towards the people and its religion. This simply gives every excuse for a particular form of Islam to fill the vacuum and begin a defensive jihad (as they claim) against Russia.
Both Russians and Islamists accuse the other of provoking war in the KBR. Russia has steadily increased the number of soldiers, police and secret services in the republics over the last year and incidents of torture, arbitrary arrest, and disappearances are now commonplace. The Yarmuk statements suggest that Islam will serve as a rallying point for young people tired of repressive rule, corruption and lack of economic opportunity. The war in Chechnya continues to serve as the catalyst for the violence, and the Kremlin’s pursuit of a military solution there ensures an escalating cycle of insurgency and repression in Kabardino-Balkaria.
Over at Untimely Thoughts, Robert Bruce Ware states:
In each of the North Caucasian republics political corruption and cronyism have become so deeply entrenched that most people have lost faith in political processes. Meanwhile, economic disparities have increased, and the rural population has become almost hopelessly mired in unemployment and poverty. People struggle to survive by subsistence farming on tiny plots of land while local elites grow ostentatiously wealthy and heedless. Throughout the entire region there is simply no legitimate political opposition. People have nowhere to turn but political and religious radicalism.
Russia’s continuing mishanlding – oppression at the Republic level to neglect from the Kremlin – of the Caucasus region will simply accelerate Russia’s waning influence over its Southern front. If Russia continues along this course, the Caucasus will definately find itself reintegrating as part of a Greater Middle East with Russia as its enemy.
Indeed, the conflict in Chechnya has moved into an all out Civil-War in the Caucasus. While Chechnya has stablized for now, security has been deterioating throughout the Caucasus. The mounting of a day-raid attack manned by 300 fighters against security forces in Nalchick is a huge blow to Russia’s authority and power in the region.
More than that, Russia is inadverdantly causing its most realized fears to be true – further disintegration of the Russian State – in the South (such as Chechnya) and in the East (By China and Japan). Russia has already lost the West – with the breakup of its ancient tri-state empire that consisted of Russia proper, Ukraine and Belarus.
Indeed, what will Russia be without its empire? Without its bigness? If Putin, the Kremlin and Russians do not find away out of alienating the inhabitants of its territories in the Caucasus – it will soon find out.