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The Forgotten War: Chechnya and Russia's Future

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The Bush and Putin administrations have misleadingly folded Chechnya into the global war on terror. Their critics have done little better by defining Chechnya as a human rights challenge. Beyond terrorism and war crimes, the war in Chechnya has become a massive roadblock on the way to Russia's modernization and transformation. The perennial conflict in the Caucasus affects the Russian polity, Russian society, and Russia's quality as a U.S. ally. It hampers the formation of a civic Russian nation, gives undue influence to the military and security services, and blocks meaningful military reform.

No early solution to the conflict is in sight, and there is little that outsiders can do. However, ignoring Chechnya or focusing primarily on human rights misses the larger issue, which is not what happens to Chechnya, but what kind of Russia emerges from that forgotten war.