Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Blowback

Well, the Russian government finally has something to celebrate with regards to its occupation of Chechnya:
Russian special forces killed the leader of Chechnya's separatists, Aslan Maskhadov, on Tuesday in a raid that gave the Kremlin a rare victory in a bloody war that has killed tens of thousands and spawned a wave of terrorist attacks across Russia in recent years.
The real question here, though, is whether this targeted killing (or assassination, if that's the lens you prefer) will lead to a deescalation of the Chechnya conflict. I don't think it's much of a stretch to answer that with an emphatic "no." The WaPo's article on this has a good reminder of the reasons why the Chechnyans don't particularly like being part of the Russian Federation.
As many as 200,000 people have been killed in Chechen violence, many of them civilians and thousands of them children, according to human rights groups.
Those numbers make the Chechnya conflict easily one of the bloodiest of the new millenium (behind, perhaps, those occurring in Congo and Sudan), and help explain why, over the course of the past few years, the leadership of the Chechnyan rebels has shifted from the secular nationalists exemplified by Aslan Maskhadov to a literally inhuman jihadi movement led by veteran ethnic cleanser Shamil Baseyev. Indeed, the killing of Maskhadov leaves Basayev as far and away the best known figure in the anti-Russian insurgency, and the presumptive heir to Maskhadov's status as the leader of the Chechen guerillas. Making a bad situation worse is that Basayev can probably count on more support than ever before from a Chechen populace radicalized by the killing of their last democratically elected president. A lot might come out of Maskhadov's death, but very little of it is likely to be good.

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