Chechnya today is under the thumb of Ramzan Kadyrov, a murderous former militia leader and close associate of Putin who has targeted not only Chechen rebels but also independent journalists and human rights activists who report on his repression. According to the State Department, he “has been implicated personally” in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, one of Russia’s most renowned journalists, who was gunned down in Moscow on Oct. 7, 2006 — Putin’s birthday.
From Putin’s point of view, Assad is simply and appropriately following the Chechnya playbook. All opposition is deemed terrorist; overwhelming force is the sole response, without regard for civilian casualties. What enrages the Kremlin is its perception that the West draws distinctions among the rebels of Syria — or Chechnya. “I was always appalled when our Western partners and the Western media called the terrorist, who did bloody crimes in our country, ‘insurgents’ and almost never terrorists,” Putin said last week.
The Post’s deputy editorial page editor, Diehl also writes a biweekly foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.
As Putin sees it, the United States is “dividing terrorists and extremists into friends and foes,” as Nezavisimaya Gazeta put it, using drones to kill some in al-Qaeda, backing others in Syria and granting asylum to Chechens like the Tsarnaev family. The right response to the Boston bombing, he suggested, is to cease making such distinctions: “If we truly join our efforts, we will not allow these strikes and suffer such losses.”
Here’s another way of looking at it: It was Putin’s own refusal to distinguish legitimate Chechen demands for independence from terrorism that created the jihadist movement in the North Caucasus, which in turn helped to radicalize the Tsarnaevs. By refusing to support secular demands for democratic change in Syria, Putin is now helping to produce a new generation of extremists. Far from being a partner in counterterrorism, Vladimir Putin is one of the larger sources of the problem.
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