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Russia's Ruinous Chechen War

A member of law enforcement forces stands guard during a rally to protest against satirical cartoons of prophet Mohammad published by Charlie Hebdo magazine, in Grozny, Chechnya, January 19, 2015. Eduard Korniyenko / Reuters

DECLINE AND FALL?

The Russian Federation may be falling apart -- and its war against Chechnya is showing why. Unfortunately, most observers of the war in Chechnya miss the larger implications, limiting their analysis to the struggle for independence of one small region. Moscow blames radical Islamists for the trouble. Despite the undeniable role of fundamentalists in the Caucasus, however, Moscow had a greater hand in the federation's decline than it cares to admit.

Russia's latest war with Chechnya was sparked in August 1999 when radical Islamists, many of whom had infiltrated from Chechnya, staged uprisings in the neighboring southern Russian republic of Dagestan. Russian troops were sent and, despite Moscow's reassurances that the conflict was under control, the operations had evolved by September into the second full-scale war between Russia and Chechnya in five years. The innumerable deaths, the relentless bombardment of cities, and the torrent of refugees are eerily

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