Writing in the Washington Post, Masha Lipman sees some problems with the Kremlin’s approach to dealing with the North Caucasus conflict and the rise of radical Islam.
Today, the rise of radical Islam in the North Caucasus is inevitable, especially with such forces active in many parts of the world. Russia’s only strategic option is a long-term and multi-pronged government commitment to the problem. It is critical that the Russian government and the nation treat the people of the North Caucasus as their fellow countrymen — no easy task given that today they are seen as a suspect culture or simply unwanted intruders. Other urgent needs are to improve security in Russia at large as well as to increase the efficiency of anti-terrorism practices. But these missions will be next to impossible in a country where the violent behavior of police officers makes them a threat to the people, rather than a force from which citizens can draw protection. (…)
Reasonable calls have also been heard. President Dmitry Medvedev spoke last week about the need to create in the North Caucasus “the right kind of modern environment for education, for doing business, for overcoming cronyism . . . and, of course, for confronting corruption.” But corruption plagues more than the North Caucasus; it’s the texture of the Russian system of governance, which is built on political monopoly and unaccountability. Unless Russia makes systemic reforms, good intentions will not translate into stronger policies.