In this Q&A, Crisis Group tapped the views of its Project Director and Analyst in Turkey, Nigar Göksel and Berkay Mandıracı, as well as its Russia and the North Caucasus Project Director, Ekaterina Sokirianskaia.
Originally published in The Guardian
In Dagestan, Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for 18 Feb attack on Orthodox church in Kizlar town, in which gunman shot at Sunday worshippers, killing five women and wounding five people including three police; gunman shot dead by police. Dagestan’s chief mufti condemned attack. National Antiterrorism Committee 15 Feb reported counter-terrorism operation in Untsukil district, central Dagestan, had resulted in one armed gang leader and one member of security forces killed. Federal Security Service (FSB) reported nine ISIS-linked militants sentenced to jail terms from five to nineteen years on terrorism-related charges in Ingushetia 6 Feb. European Parliament 8 Feb called for Russian authorities to release Oyub Titiyev, director of human rights group Memorial who was arrested in Chechnya in Jan and is being held on drug possession charge. Dagestan republic’s PM and two deputies arrested early Feb, suspected of large-scale embezzlement of funds.
China and Russia’s separate visions for Central Asia could transform the region’s political and economic landscape as well as relations between the two Eurasian giants. To the smaller, embryonic Central Asian nation states, the new geopolitical realities could offer both economic prosperity as well as worsening instability and conflict.
Russia’s North Caucasus insurgency has gone relatively quiet, as Moscow crushed militants and many left to fight in Syria and Iraq. But longstanding grievances remain and the war may only have widened, as evidenced by the bombing of a Russian airliner in Egypt and the emergence of new groups swearing allegiance to the Islamic State in Russia itself.
For two decades, the North Caucasus conflict has been among Europe’s deadliest. Recently, victims were less, but risks associated with growing Islamic State (IS) influence in the insurgency are growing. To prevent a new rise in violence, Moscow must promote transparent governance as well as social and economic opportunities in its six North Caucasus republics.
A powerful propaganda machine promotes the “success story” of today’s Chechnya. But its peace is fragile; government repression is used to keep the people at bay while economic inequality, poor social infrastructure, lack of genuine reconciliation and almost full impunity for past abuses reflect the republic’s daily reality.
Stronger democratic institutions are crucial to easing violence in Russia’s North Caucasus, where Europe’s worst armed conflict claimed at least 1,225 victims in 2012 and 495 in the first six months of 2013.
Russia’s North Caucasus region is Europe’s deadliest conflict today, with some 574 deaths already this year, and the killing is unlikely to end soon.
Russia needs both the Syrian regime and Turkey. So it has to give a little bit to both and it has to ... make them equally angry, if that's what it wants.
In the end [Moscow] will want a political solution in Syria, and economic reconstruction. For that they will need European input and money and investment.
After the nuclear deal, in 2015, Putin worried about rapprochement between Iran and the U.S. A lot has changed. Russia is now Iran’s most important and powerful ally.
[For the heads of state attending the Sochi summit], one of the principal [questions] is what form the Kurdish participation in Geneva will take. I do not see the Turks making progress on this point.
[Local barons in Russia's republics often] consolidate their positions in ministries, place their friends and relations in important posts and use various corrupt practices to siphon off resources.
[The Kremlin hopes] to promote Kadyrov as a brand, as someone who turned the war-torn republic into a peaceful and affluent place, who is loyal to the Putin regime and who promotes conservative values.
The prospect of a UN peacekeeping force in Ukraine's Donbas offers a rare opening to discuss how to resolve the conflict. But Moscow's diplomatic overtures also risk fueling political infighting in Kyiv in the run-up to next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.
Originally published in Lowy Institute
Originally published in Eurasianet
Originally published in The New York Review of Books