In the most general terms, the 1994-96 Chechen war was caused by the refusal of Russia's leaders, perfectly legitimately as Russia's constitutional court declared in July 1995, to allow part of the Russian Federation - Chechnya - independence. It used force, again legitimately, to enforce Russia laws on Chechen territory and to prevent a spread of lawlessness from Chechnya affecting stability in other parts of the northern Caucasus. States rarely agree to break themselves up into their component parts. That is especially true in the case of a state with strong, centralized imperial traditions such as Russia.