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Send Chechens, Guns, and Money

Ramzan Kadyrov’s Imperial Ambitions

Ramzan Kadyrov at a Chechen cultural celebration in Grozny, May 2013. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

Imagine a ruler who commands his own private army, with highly trained, personally loyal soldiers instructed to kill any outside military personnel on his territory on sight. This ruler has recently annexed part of his western neighbor’s territory and plans to do the same on his eastern frontier. He styles himself a leading global Islamic figure, hosting international religious conferences and forging security cooperation and military training agreements with wealthy Muslim autocracies. He expands his fiefdom’s ties with those of his neighbors that he cannot intimidate, even as his security forces regularly beat and assassinate his exiled opponents half a continent away.

You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a description of a historical leader—the medieval ruler of some small emirate in Anatolia or the Arabian Peninsula. At the least, you might assume that he governed an independent state. You almost certainly would not picture

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