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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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What will happen if Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov dies?

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a staunch ally of President Vladimir Putin, has recently become the subject of serious health-related rumors. The Kremlin-backed Kadyrov, known for providing a substantial number of troops for Russia’s war in Ukraine, is suspected to be hospitalized in a coma.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan breaks down the history of Chechen leadership, and explains how, with its “psychopathic” leader’s health in question, a future Chechen civil war cannot be ruled out.

An excerpt from the Sept. 25 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” Newsletter:

Today, we’re looking at Chechnya’s tumultuous history with Russia and what the future might hold. After two wars, a few decades of nominal Russian control and ruthless leadership, the tides might be turning for Chechnya.

That ruthless leader I mentioned, Ramzan Kadyrov, hasn’t quite set the Chechens up for success. However, as his health comes into question, so does the future of Russia’s role in Chechnya.

If Kadyrov kicks it, several complications arise for the Russians. There’s no succession plan, the flow of information could be cut off, regional allegiances could shift, and with the ongoing war in Ukraine…things could get spicy.

While it may seem like all of this is contingent upon Kadyrov’s death, most of it is inevitable. Sure, Kadyrov could help speed things along, but Chechnya (and this region as a whole) has plenty of dynamism and volatility in its future.

Everybody, Peter Zion coming to you from Colorado. We’re doing the next in kind of an open ended series on the Russian positions throughout the former Soviet world, how they’re disintegrating. And what that can mean. We’re talking about Chechnya today. Now, Chechnya is a little statelet republics of the Russian Federation that tried to break away back in the 1990s. When the Soviet system collapsed, there were two major wars in the first one, the Russians were soundly and embarrassingly defeated. And in the second one, the Russians were able to split the Chechens into groups and ally with one of the more powerful factions and in doing so, reassert nominal Russian control emphasis on the word nominal. Basically, the Russians provided this one group with troops and equipment and intelligence and money. And combined with the Russian forces, they were able to defeat the others. Part of the terms of the deal well, was though, that the Russians pretty much had to leave. And so the Russians still lost control of Chechnya. But at least nominally this faction does adhere to what Putin says he wants to do. Even though for all intents and purposes, he this faction is independent. Now that faction is run by the courier off claim by courier off the father was killed in an assassination attempt back and I want to say 2002 1001 and his son Rumson is Well, I think the most clinical way I can put it is an absolute fucking psychopath. tortures people, murderers, people runs the place in a reign of terror. Definitely not the kind of guy that you want to meet under any circumstances, or preferably even read about if you have an option. Anyway, Kadir off the JR has become part of the political support system for the entirety of the Putin regime across Russia, where he engages in a lot of intimidation provides shock troops for, say things like in Ukraine, and does a considerable amount of wet work, which is, you know, a fancy name for assassinating people that Putin doesn’t like. Now, the news that has come out of the last few days, is that there’s something wrong with ramsons health. Now, he has released a video as of the 21st of September, showing that he’s clearly alive. And so whether there’s anything true to the rumors, I have no idea, what I can tell you is that the situation where career of Jr. is in league with the Russians is of limited duration, and a lot more fragile than people think. I remember he’s basically being paid in men and equipment and intelligence, and of course, cash to be on the Russian side. So if something happens to those flows, his loyalty is, you know, available to the highest bidder. Also, he is the leader of one faction, a powerful faction, yes, but only one injection society. So if you had a change in circumstances, it’s easy to see that you can have a power struggle erupt in this area very, very, very, very quickly. And who knows how that would shake out. And it’s perfectly reasonable to think that this would descend into a bit of a civil war among the Chechens themselves, because there are Chechens in Ukraine fighting against the Putin government and the Chechen shock troops that Europe has brought in I mean, this is not a unified polity by any stretch of the imagination. So there are kind of four things you have to keep in mind here that if something were to happen to Kadir off, that we would see a lot more instability, and especially an incapacity for the Russians to maintain the position. The first is that there’s no second in charge in Chechnya, it’s just runs on himself. His sons are the oldest one is 17. There’s certainly in no position to take over. And it’s not like they were raised in the rebellion. They were all born after the war ended, they were had been raised in the lap of luxury. And they have very active Instagram accounts of other social media stars among Russian nationalists and Chechens. But it’s very clear that it’s all airbrushed. And these are not people who have actually had to do any real fighting. Could they rise to the occasion if their father was just to disappear, maybe, but there would be plenty of others who would also try, and that’s the whole point would end in a struggle. Number two, it’s not clear that these the group of Chechens that are working for the Russian government are easily replaceable. One of the things we’ve learned throughout all of the conflicts in Ukraine with first the Orange Revolution and then the Maidan protests, and then the 2014 War in Crimea, and now most recently, the 2022 war in Ukraine is that Russian intelligence authorities are not nearly as competent as they used to be. Most of the Goodwin’s, went off in the 1990s and early 2000s, and kind of got into business and got into crime themselves and haven’t come home. So Putin is really relying upon careerists clan to do a lot of the work that used to be done by kind of the dirty hands of some aspects of the intelligence bureaus. And if that were to vanish or god forbid, turn on Putin. It’s not clear that it would go really well. Third, there is more going on with the Chechens who are working for Putin than just the stuff within Russia and Ukraine. The Chechens have their fingers and a number of other frozen conflicts in the region in the caucuses, most notably, a trio of regions within the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which is often found itself on the receiving end of Russian violence. There’s a Chechen enclave in a place called the PennKey Z gorge that is just north of Tbilisi that kind of as a de facto independent zone. And then there are two zones Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the Russians actually have regular troops there and they’re physically maintaining the independence really occupied nature, under Russian control from the Georgian authorities. And if the Chechens were to flip and just go neutral in those positions, it’s not clear with the Russians being as distracted as they are by Ukraine. Whether or not these areas could continue to be functionally independent. The Georgians of course, would love to take those territories back. And then fourth, and most importantly, one way or another, we’re probably going to see a reckoning here in terms of strategic control. If the Ukrainians are even marginally successful at resisting the Russians, eventually, some aspects of this we’re gonna get to the city of Rostov on Don in southwestern Russia. And raw stuff is the primary launching point for Russian forces operating in eastern Ukraine. And it is the only launching point for Russian forces operating in the Crimean peninsula itself. And if it becomes constrained, that is what the Ukrainians need if they’re going to ever win this war. But Ross up does more than just serve as a launching point offer Russian operations in Ukraine. It’s also the primary launching off point for Russian operations throughout the entire caucuses, including in Chechnya, so even F Kadir off remains loyal. Any even moderate success by the Ukrainians is going to impinge upon the Russians ability to influence the caucuses at all, and then Kadir off when it becomes clear that the weapon and the men in the money might not be coming in the same value, he is going to have to make some decisions on his own. And if he even as he sticks, where he is, other groups throughout the Caucasus, the Azerbaijanis, the Georgians, other Chechen groups, the Daga Ston ease, it’s a long list are going to start looking at the change in circumstances when the Russians simply can’t project power in force to the Caucasus region. And when that the Russians will be dealing with a multi different series of rebellions and wars, that they really get proven they don’t have the logistics and the manpower to deal with. So Kadir off is clearly important. And his health is survivability, his political standing where he sides with this fact none of that matters greatly. But if you step back and look at where this is going from a big picture point of view, Kadir offs change of heart or change of health, it could only speed things up. A lot of this stuff is inevitable. A lot of this stuff has to happen. Anyway, it’s just Khedira could make it happen tomorrow, instead of three years from now.

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