Russia's Invasion of Chechnya: A Preliminary Assessment: Strategic Studies Institute

 
9781482301335: Russia's Invasion of Chechnya: A Preliminary Assessment: Strategic Studies Institute
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When Russia's armed forces invaded Chechnya on December 11, 1994, they thought that it would only be a brief, decisive operation to bring the rebellious republic to heel. Unfortunately, they grossly miscalculated and have thereby put the stability of the Russian government itself at risk while inadvertently exposing the many shortcomings of the Russian armed forces. The invasion also revealed the absence of viable institutional or civilian control over the armed forces, as well as the government's readiness to use them to quell domestic unrest. These factors make for an exceedingly dangerous situation in Russia. And the invasion has also raised deeply troubling questions for Russia's international relations. All this is clear even from the first few weeks of the invasion. The invasion's repercussions will, therefore, be profound, and probably long-lasting in their ultimate effects. This essay accordingly represents an effort to assess these consequences on the basis of what is already known. Chechnya, which had declared its independence from Russia in 1991, had become an increasingly painful and troublesome issue in Russian politics. Russia's determination to overthrow the government of General Dzhokar Dudayev is only the most recent manifestation of the acute disorder that pervades the entire Caucasus and Transcaucasia as well. While the ultimate outcome and repercussions of this invasion remain to be seen, already it has illuminated obvious and often ominous trends. Russia's decision to invade Chechnya underscores the end of the Caucasus' isolation from world politics. No longer is the area merely Moscow's gateway to influence in the Near and Middle East. Rather the fate of the entire regional state system in the Caucasus and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)--the bedrock issue of all the many contentions in which Russia is involved--is deeply entwined with further progress in European security, especially around the Black Sea and Balkans. The crises in the Caucasus: ethnic wars in Nagorno-Karabakh and between Georgia and Abkhazia, the unrest throughout the North Caucasus most violently displayed by this invasion, and Russian efforts to regain a regional hegemony reflect and contribute to the pervasive regional chaos that now threatens to engulf all of Russia as well. Accordingly Caucasian events also materially affect Europe's security and this is reflected in Europe's expanded security agenda. A second conclusion relates to this one. By deciding to invade Chechnya, President Boris Yeltsin has made the stability of the Russian government and the integrity of the Russian state the center of gravity of the war. Whatever happens in Groznyi is of relatively small consequence compared to the fact that Yeltsin has exposed his regime's failure to create either a "rule of law state," (not to mention democracy), a reliable policy process, and a way to control Russia's armed forces. Accordingly, the chaos pervading the entire Caucasus could easily spread to Russia.

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