ABSTRACT

From the beginning of its second Chechen operation in 1999, Russia claimed that it was fighting terrorism in the North Caucasus, arguing that it posed a critical threat to the security of its southern borders, where the complex level of ethnic diversity and myriad peoples of the Caucasus represent a significant security threat. During this second campaign, the scope of the conflict, which initially began in December 1994 as an operation to quash the Chechen separatist movement and ‘restore constitutional legality’, was widened to become part of Russia’s war against international terrorism. In 2000, it implemented a policy of ‘Chechenisation’, with President Vladimir Putin imposing direct rule over the republic and installing a pro-Moscow administration. This policy, combined with the practice of ‘collective responsibility’ and the use of overwhelming force, has gradually brought an end to major violence, with large-scale conflict in Chechnya ending in 2003/2004, although a low-level insurgency continued, particularly in the mountainous south of the republic. In spring 2009, Moscow formally declared the end of its ‘counterterrorism operation’ in Chechnya (although since 2005 there has been a conspicuous escalation in militancy across the North Caucasus). At first glance, this might suggest that Russian efforts to deter terrorism were successful, a conclusion reached by some Russian commentators and scholars:

the war in Chechnya has ended. We won. The main heroes of this war are its political leaders and also the several thousand young lads, Chechens, Russians and others, who gave their lives for the territorial integrity of Russia, for the security of the citizens of Russia and for the reduction of the threat of terrorism. 1

This chapter examines the evolution of Russia’s counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya and assesses the success of its attempts to deter terrorist activity. Moscow launched its second campaign of the post-Soviet era against Chechnya in October 1999 on the basis that it was a counter-terrorist operation, enabling it to deploy armed forces from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), as opposed to the Ministry of the Interior (MVD), on domestic soil. Whilst Chechnya, after years of quasi-independence and conflict, was very unstable, 160the actual threat from terrorism was less than after the commencement of the second Russian operation in 1999 – with the beginning of a second military operation in the republic, Chechen fighters resorted to terrorist attacks against military and government targets within Chechnya, as well as suicide terrorism (a tactic not previously used). 2 Therefore, it can be surmised that the ‘counter-terrorist’ operation and Russian efforts to deter terrorism initially stimulated attacks, rather than deterred them, partly because of the Russian reliance on the use of overwhelming and indiscriminate violence: the Chechens increasingly resorted to terrorist attacks only after the Russians launched their counter-terrorist operation in 1999. This chapter examines the reasons for this, arguing that although the Russian approach initially failed to deter terrorism, merely exacerbating the problem and suggesting support for Adler’s deterrence trap, a longitudinal examination of the case-study demonstrates an evolution in the Russian leadership’s understanding of the logic of deterrence, which has ultimately led to a reduction in (but not elimination of) the threat from terrorism.