Russia's Counterinsurgency in North Caucasus: Performance and Consequences

  • March 01, 2014
  • Dr Ariel Cohen

The North Caucasus region has been a source of instability for the past several centuries. Most recently, Chechen aspirations to achieve full independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union led to two disastrous wars. While the active phase of the Chechen conflict ended in 2000 – more than a decade ago—the underlying social, economic, and political issues of the region remain. A low-level insurgency continues to persist in the North Caucasus region, with occasional terrorist attacks in the Russian heartland. There are few reasons to expect any substantial improvement in the situation for years to come. Chechnya functions as a de facto independent entity; Islamist influence in Dagestan is growing, terror attacks continue, and the rest of the North Caucasus requires massive presence of Russian security services to keep the situation under control. Preventing the North Caucasus from slipping back into greater instability requires tackling corruption, cronyism, discrimination, and unemployment—something the Kremlin has so far not been very willing to do. “Small wars” in the Caucasus resonated as far away as Boston, MA, and more international attention and cooperation is necessary to prevent the region from blowing up.