Friday, October 6, 2006. Issue 3513. Page 8.
The Danger of Kadyrov for President
Assessments of Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov tend to swing to
the extremes. Some demonize him as the man behind gross human rights
violations in Chechnya -- a charge for which there is compelling
evidence. His own men and a good part of the population deify him as
one of the few officials who actually gets things done in the
republic, the evidence for which comes in part from omnipresent
posters and signs that present him as the brightest light in the
region's political galaxy.
Kadyrov started showing presidential ambitions soon after the killing
in 2004 of his father, President Akhmad Kadyrov. But the Chechen
constitution limits the post to candidates aged 30 or older. With him
turning 30 on Thursday, speculation is growing that he might push out
the current president, Alu Alkhanov.
To do so, however, he would need the consent of the Kremlin, which has
the power to hire and fire regional leaders.
It would be dangerous for the Kremlin to agree to the promotion.
Selecting Kadyrov as president would threaten to make the Kremlin
overly dependent on him.
Kadyrov already wields vast power. His paramilitary troops are key to
backing federal forces against the remaining insurgency. He is
responsible for the handling of billions of rubles in reconstruction
funds for Chechnya. As prime minister he has outlawed gambling, called
for the legalization of polygamy, and spearheaded a crackdown on alcohol.
The stronger he becomes in the region, the more difficult it will be
for Moscow to resist future demands. His father regularly campaigned
for more control over Chechnya's energy resources, and Kadyrov has
done the same.
He should not be given the presidency. Any stability his appointment
would generate would be short term. His price for delivering stability
could lead to a pseudo-separatist republic that sets its own energy
policy, determines how development funds are used and implements its
own idea of law and order -- much like the Chechnya disastrously led
by rebel President Aslan Maskhadov in the late 1990s.
There also would be doubts about the loyalties of a Kadyrov Chechnya.
Kadyrov might be fiercely loyal to President Vladimir Putin, but how
loyal would he be to Putin's successor and to Russia in general?
In that aspect, Alkhanov is a better choice. His loyalties as a career
Russian policeman are clear.
Even if Kadyrov were to pledge loyalty to Putin's successor, it might
only last as long as the federal subsidies, which currently account
for 80 percent of Chechnya's budget. Should Russia's economy slow and
the money thin out, Kadyrov might start wondering whether pushing for
succession would be a better deal.
That would not a good deal for Moscow.