The Caucasus: a Hotbed of Terrorism in Metamorphosis Russie.Nei.Visions, No. 60, July 2011
Since summer 2009, instability in the eastern part of the North Caucasus has escalated, a security threat against which the Russian leadership cannot find a strategy. Despite a maximum-intensity counterinsurgency campaign, the rebels have been able to expand their support base, staging terrorist attacks in Moscow.
The Domodedovo airport of 24 January 2011 is just the latest example. President Medvedev is trying to combine sustained repression with economic development, but his "soft power" approach has little credibility. Increased transfers from the federal budget have created a system of administrative corruption, which now constitutes a greater obstacle to private investment than the high risk of violence. In fact, rampant corruption has become the major driver for instability because public anger cannot find political expression, feeding the growth of underground Islamic networks that often resort to violence. The inefficacy of Medvedev's strategy increases the probability that the 2011-2012 election cycle in Russia could be suddenly and profoundly influenced by terrorism originating in the North Caucasus. Yet, another attempt to mobilize the country through a decisive, centralizing leader might propel Russia towards a spontaneous Soviet-style implosion.