Kadyrov’s Chechnya poses a growing risk for Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in April 2017 at the Kremlin
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov in April 2017. Mr. Kadyrov’s growing importance for Moscow puts it in a tight spot (source: dpa)
  • Ramzan Kadyrov provides stability in Chechnya and troops in Ukraine and Syria
  • His growing strength is becoming dangerous for Moscow
  • Dealing with Kadyrov now risks reprisals or war
  • More support for him risks intra-Kremlin strife or a possible Chechen breakaway

As Russia’s March 18 presidential election approaches, the Kremlin is becoming increasingly worried that it may not be able to meet its target of a 70 percent turnout and a 70 percent vote in favor of President Vladimir Putin. There is no question who will be elected, but Moscow deems it necessary for political stability that Mr. Putin scores a decisive win.

This apprehension reflects how unevenly democracy has progressed in Russia. In big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, the liberal opposition may still convince enough voters to abstain to make Mr. Putin’s victory seem unconvincing. In other parts of the country, local leaders’ grip is such that the outcome is a forgone conclusion.

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