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The conflict prevention capacities of the Russian government in the Caucasus

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By Valery Tishkov
Institute of Anthropology and Ethnology, Russian Academy of Sciences
and Anton Ivanov
Forum on Early Warning and Early Response (FEWER)

Moscow, December 1999
Pre-publication copy

Edited by S. Campbell and M. Marwaha-Diedrich for the FEWER Secretariat

1. INTRODUCTION

The Caucasus territory of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was divided after the breakup of the USSR in 1991 between four states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. Since then, the Russian Federation's policy towards the Caucasus has focused on foreign policy in the Transcaucasian states in the South and domestic policy in the North Caucasus. As a result, there is a large difference between the goals, interests and mechanisms of Russian policy towards independent states in the South Caucasus and to the subjects of the Russian Federation in the North Caucasus. The policy of the Russian government towards these regions contain some common elements or general guidelines.

A number of principles of Russian policy towards the Caucasus were voiced during the visit of the Russian Foreign Minister I.S. Ivanov in the Transcaucasus in September 1999. For instance, Ivanov was reported to have said that "Russia was, is now, and will continue to be a Caucasian power," and that "(t)he Caucasus is our common home." He stressed that security in the Caucasus would be addressed only in terms of the common security of all countries of the region, "We need a stable Caucasus. Without it we will be unable to ensure security of the southern borders of Russia and halt the incursions of terrorists and religious extremists throughout the territory". [From statements of the foreign minister on Russian central television channels and in the press.]

Nevertheless, there is no valid doctrine or programme where such an approach is identified as part of a common security agenda. Further, the Russian federal government tends to disregard answers from the South Caucasus to the idea of a "common Caucasian home" as signalling a move towards a "Caucasus without Russia". Such anxiety is justified by the fact that pan-Caucasian projects are also advanced by Chechen separatist forces or other extremist groups. At the Russian federal level, the aim of these actors is perceived to be working towards the unaccomplished ‘self-determination’ in the Caucasus at the expense of further Russian disintegration.

Russia follows a unilateral conflict management approach towards domestic crisis zones in the North Caucasus and a bilateral (or multilateral) approach in the South Caucasus. This includes substantial experience accumulated among mainly Russian-staffed peacekeeping missions in two of Georgia’s breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Bilateral agreements reached between Georgia and Russia in June and July 1992 led to the creation of joint Georgia-Ossetia-Russian peacekeeping forces. The Abkhazian mission, while officially the product of an October 1994 CIS conference, was established after long-standing Russian military presence since the war of 1992-93 and the voicing of a number of principles of the Russian policy towards the Caucasus.

Following about seven years of Russia’s experience in the Caucasus since 1992, there are sufficient grounds for re-evaluating the guidelines and mechanisms of conflict management. Some Russian experts believe the time has come to articulate and pursue a consistent approach towards militant separatist scenarios throughout the region. Three ways are suggested. First, avoid a second round of disintegration of territory of the former Soviet Union and strengthen the governance of existing new states. Secondly, a joint effort to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of post-Soviet states should be established. Thirdly, a high level of self-rule for independence-seeking regions should be ensured by the states involved. The last ones to join should extend joint guarantees to respect and to defend self-governing autonomous state formations within the boundaries of larger states.

2. POLICY TOWARDS ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN AND GEORGIA

Russia’s involvement in the Caucasus region is an historical reality based on powerful interests and deeply rooted connections. At the same time, there is a strong drive on a part of national elites to dismantle radical Russian/ Soviet legacies up to the point of changing historical place- names. It is noteworthy that the historical name of the region - the Transcaucasus (such as Transilvania, Transdniestria, etc.) has been questioned by proponents of the new political correctness who wish to create a mental distance from Russia. Consequently, the region is being renamed the "South Caucasus".

Russia and the countries of the Transcaucasus have deeper ties and interests than the diverse relationships of the Transcaucasus with other countries (such as Iran, Turkey, U.S.A.). The common ties are due to their previously being part of the USSR as well as the remaining humanitarian, economic and cultural relations. For example, one of the most important sources of revenue for the Transcaucasian states are capital returns from private investment by the citizens of Transcaucasian countries resident in the Russian Federation or migrating back and forth for business. Billions of dollars earned in Russia that are being sent back to the Transcaucasus to support families and relatives exceed returns from any other sources, including the oil extraction mega-projects.

In Russia, there are approximately 2,000,000 traders and entrepreneurs from Azerbaijan, 500,000-700,000 from Georgia, and approximately 500,000 from Armenia. Another 2,000,000 traditional diaspora of Azeris, Armenians and Georgians resident in Russia are of critical importance to the region. Numerically and in terms of economic and political influence, these populations will continue to increase. There is a noticeable drive among qualified professionals and cultural elite in the Transcaucasus to restore severely damaged ties with its northern neighbour.

The present pattern of humanitarian ties and economic relations between Russia and the countries of the Transcaucasus will be preserved in the foreseeable future. It is a result of the historical, geographical, and socio-cultural proximities as well as other powerful factors that will define the preferences of the Caucasian people towards Russian economic and cultural space. The Russian language will stay lingua franca for the region, including the South Caucasus. Existing obstacles to further strengthening the Russia-Transcaucasus dialogue and co-operation are created by the present cultural and political elite in the Transcaucasus promoting co-operation with other countries. By promoting better relations with Turkey, Iran and other powers in the Middle East as well as western countries, these elite are striving to radically distance themselves from Russia and dismantle a common historical and cultural heritage in order to facilitate the new alliances. A similar approach can be observed among a section of high-ranking managers, influential military figures and indigenous business oligarchs who make their fortune through foreign contracts. Such a position of creating distance from Russia is actively supported by outside actors, including other post-Soviet states such as the Ukraine and the Baltic states.

Another important obstacle is found within Russia itself where there are growing anti-Caucasian sentiments, fuelled by a few in the political elite and Russian public. There is likely to be implementation of a visas regime and measures to limit migration in the region aimed to counter-balance the terrorist and separatist threats. Serious proposals have been put forward to introduce migration quotas for the Transcaucasians and impose strict rules on their economic activities within Russia, specifically, private money transfer practices.

Russia officially recognises and acknowledges the existence of the three independent states in the Caucasus, as well as the status of autonomous subjects of the Russian Federation in the North Caucasus. According to the head of the Fourth Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "The terms Transcaucasus or the South Caucasus are unimportant. The reality is that there are three states with which Russia builds foreign relations and towards which it implements foreign policy". [Personal interview by Valery Tishkov with A.N.Borodavkin, September 1999, Moscow.] Foreign Minister I.S. Ivanov stated on 1 September 1999 that Russia recognises and supports the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

The approach of the Russian Federal government to self-proclaimed separatist formations such as in Abkhazia, Chechnya and Nagorno-Karabakh, is based upon the principle of the territorial integrity of all four Caucasian states. This principle is included in the national constitutions, confirmed by inter-state agreements within the frameworks of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and in bilateral treaties. For many years now, the Russian military has maintained a successful peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia. At the initiative of the Russian Federation, tripartite peacekeeping forces were deployed in South Ossetia in 1992 which has helped to normalise peaceful life in the conflict zone. The presence of these refugees in the region with its own unsettled conflict further complicates the situation.

Since August 1999, the federal government has initiated major changes in Russia’s attitude towards the Transcaucasian states.

Trafficking of weapons and munitions, and the transit of foreign mercenaries through the Transcaucasus to Chechnya and Daghestan has recently become a central concern of the Russian government. At present, the federal government is searching for alternatives and identifying policy instruments for the elaboration of joint anti-terrorist policy in the Caucasus. Ad hoc meetings of foreign ministers of the four states aimed at defining measures against terrorism and crime as well as meetings of the top officials on the border regime signalled the emergence of closer and more routine contacts between Russia’s federal officials with their counterparts in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. However, there was insufficient coordination for crisis management between these governments before the crisis broke out. After the failure to reach an agreement with Georgia concerning the Chechen part of Russia’s border, the Russian military took control of this mountain area bordering Georgia.

There is no evidence of any early and well-planned strategy to suppress Chechnya with military might. The recent military operations evolved out of the invasion of Daghestan by a section of Chechen armed groups to impose a "common Islamic state of Chechnya and Daghestan". These anti-terrorist operations escalated into major military activities on the whole territory of Chechnya with a clear purpose of destroying a separatist regime in Grozny but with unclear future prospects for stable peace in this region. The new federal policy in the North Caucasus has been articulated by acting President Vladimir Putin pointing to three major tasks: to keep the country’s integrity, to bring security for the people, and "to return Russians, all people of Russia a feeling of pride for their great country" (speech at the ceremony of decorations for military officers, 21 December 1999).

Apart from the Presidential Decree on relations with the CIS member countries, there is no specific doctrine or concept regulating the Caucasian direction of foreign policy. At the governmental level the main mechanisms of co-operation and co-ordination are the joint intergovernmental commissions (IGCs) with the Transcaucasian states, which are chaired by top federal officials and organised by the Ministry of CIS states (Minsotrudnichestvo).

2.1 Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

According to the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the main body co-ordinating governmental policy towards the countries of the Transcaucasus. As a result, all other governmental bodies and regional authorities are obliged to co-ordinate with this ministry on relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Vassily Sredin oversees all the work on CIS countries. The four departments within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for the relations with CIS countries are:

  • First Department (general and multilateral co-operation),
  • Second Department (Belorus, Moldova and the Ukraine),
  • Third Department (Central Asian states),
  • Fourth Department (Transcaucasian states).

The Fourth Department is headed by A.N. Borodavkin with a staff of 43 people, including a special envoy assigned to specific conflicts - Nikolay Gribkov (co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh), Lev Mironov (Abkhazian conflict), Mikhail Mayorov (South Ossetian conflict), Ambassador Kolokolov (Chechnya and Daghestan), as well as another envoy to the Caspian region. The Fourth Department also has a Regional Conflict Unit (3 staff-members), whose activities are covered by the general budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, there is no research or analysis division within the department nor the budget available to commission such activities. The Department of Foreign Policy Planning and Prognosis is in charge of all analytical work.

The Fourth Department is immediately responsible for the implementation of foreign policy in the Transcaucasus, including conflict resolution and prevention. For example, staff of the Department was actively involved in negotiations on the extension of the mandate for the Collective Peacekeeping Forces in Georgia. This mandate was extended in August 1999. The Department played an important role in resolving the issues on border relations with Azerbaijan and Georgia, namely the limitations on border crossings adopted four years ago and gradually lifted afterwards (with the exception of the Abkhaz part of the Russian-Georgian border along the Psou river). Russia’s recent announcement (before new war in Chechnya) that part of the border become more transparent caused dissatisfaction in Georgia where people considered this move to reward the separatists. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Russian Federation will observe the decisions of the CIS summit of 19 January 1996 by banning the supply of arms and munitions to Abkhazia as well as limiting trade and official contacts with Abkhazia.

As far as Nagorno-Karabakh is concerned, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports direct contact between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and is prepared to mediate with the Minsk group based on the results of the dialogue between the heads of the two states.

The position of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Caspian problem and the oil transportation routes includes the following approaches:

a) defining the status of the Caspian Sea in respect to international law and mutual interests;

b) environmentally sustainable development of the resources in the Caspian region to ensure that the ecological system is not irreversibly damaged;

c) a more careful assessment of the Transcaspian gas pipeline project and the project of the Baku-Jeyhan oil pipeline (considering the seismically active zone);

d) multilateral approaches to the development of land transportation with a focus on uniting different projects (including TRACECA).

2.2 The Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Fuel and Energy

These governmental bodies and other agencies of the "economic block", in co-operation with state-owned and private companies, supervise the issues of economic relations and trade with the Transcaucasian states. The internal departments are sub-divided according to regional and functional principles. The main external partner of the government is the petroleum company Lukoil. The president of the company is Vagit Alekperov.

Viktor Kalyuzhny, minister of fuel and energy-production of Russia, visited Baku in September 1999 and made a number of important statements outlining Russian policy in this sphere. He raised the following issues:

a) Russia must be properly represented in the international consortium on Azeri oil development;

b) any form of the participation of Russian companies in the development of the Caspian oil reserve must meet the economic interests of Russia;

c) Russian government will support an extended participation of the Russian companies in the Caspian oil development;

d) regardless of the economic difficulties, Russia will ensure the transportation of oil via alternative routes in accordance with the existing schedules; and

e) Russia will support the creation of a special council of the Caspian states in addressing the regulation of the international status of the Caspian Sea and co-ordination of activities in the Caspian basin.

2.3 Ministry on Co-operation of the CIS Countries (Minsotrudnichestvo)

The Ministry on Co-operation with the CIS Countries (Ministry on the CIS or Minsotrudnichestvo) is an important federal governmental body that addresses conflict and post-conflict situations in the Transcaucasian countries. The Ministry on the CIS is an umbrella for the Governmental commission on the compatriots abroad, headed by the deputy chairman of the Russian government. The commission elaborated a draft Concept paper of State policy towards Russians living abroad, which is yet to be endorsed by the President.

The Ministry on the CIS is also responsible for co-ordination of the bilateral inter-governmental commissions (IGCs). The commissions with Azerbaijan and Georgia are headed by the first vice-Prime Minister Viktor Aksenenko. The head of the commission with Armenia is first vice-Prime Minister Adamov.

3. POLICY TOWARDS THE NORTH CAUCASUS

The government of the Russian Federation acknowledges the special status of the North Caucasus as a region with a difficult socio-economic situation and numerous armed conflicts. The region is treated as one of a localised threat to the national interests of the country, including the threat to the territorial integrity from the Chechen separatist regime and international armed extremism. In 1998-1999 the Ministry for Federal Affairs and Nationalities of the Russian Federation (Ministry for Nationalities) worked out a Concept paper for the State Nationalities Policy in the North Caucasus that was discussed at the session of Russian government and now awaits presidential endorsement. The aim of this policy in the North Caucasus is as follows:

a) maintenance and protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, its national security, constitutional rights and freedoms of the citizens and peoples of the region;

b) defining the main policy priorities and directions for the federal and local North Caucasian bodies of state power on managing the complex ethnopolitical situation in the region; and

c) development of the federalist and ethnic relations in the region taking into consideration the local peculiarities and ensuring that the proper conditions are created for the social and cultural development of the North Caucasian peoples.

The Concept paper describes the following principles for state policy in the North Caucasus:

  • maintain the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation;
  • improve federalist relations with regard to the ethnic peculiarities and traditions of the North Caucasian peoples;
  • defend human rights, regardless of nationality and ethnicity, which will create conditions for the preservation of ethnic diversity within the North Caucasian populations as well as free ethnocultural development of all peoples living in the North Caucasus;
  • prevent attempts to resolve inter-ethnic disputes with the use of force as well as the propaganda that fuels those conflicts;
  • support tolerance of religious, cultural and linguistic differences, development of a dialogue between ethnic, religious and cultural groups and among individuals;
  • strengthen and develop ties between all administrative subjects in North Caucasus; and
  • implement counteractive measures against any attempts by external state actors to use the ethnic diversity of the region to interfere in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation.

The Concept paper highlights conflict situations in the region and suggests the following mechanisms for conflict management and resolution:
  • Divided peoples - negotiations with Azerbaijan and Georgia on facilitated procedures for border crossings for the representatives of ethnically related peoples, the status of the border zones and border co-operation, mutual programmes in the field of education, culture, languages, publishing and information dissemination as well as protection of the rights of minorities;
  • Refugees, IDPs and forced migrants - development of the federal programme on settlement and employment for refugees, IDPs and forced migrants in the North Caucasus, including the utilisation of the non-state funding sources such as Russian and international non-governmental organisations. Creation of legal and financial conditions for the realisation of the entrepreneurs' initiatives in developing the job market for refugees and migrants in accordance with prioritised spheres of activities. Negotiations with Georgia on repatriation of the Meskhetian Turks. Creation of a legal framework to regulate the immigration of citizens of the CIS to Russia;
  • The Russian population - implementation of a system to decrease the emigration of Russians from the regions, including regulations of representation in power-sharing, access to employment and higher education, as well as more rigorous observation of laws against ethnic discrimination;
  • Repressed peoples and the Cossacks - implementation of the law on rehabilitation of repressed peoples; special programmes on cultural revival of the repressed peoples with particular attention to the revival of local languages. Support for local scholars, educational establishments, and national intelligentsia, including the admission of repressed peoples to institutions of higher education. Facilitation of the positive potential of the Cossacks and measures against Cossack ethnocentrism;
  • Overcoming the consequences of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict - implementation of the Russian government’s decisions (decree N274 of 6 March 1998) on state assistance to the citizens of Russia who lost their dwellings as a result of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict. Ensuring refugees' rights to freedom of movement and residence. Implementation of the regulation and co-operation treaty between the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania and the Republic of Ingushetia of 4 September 1997 as well as the joint programme of action for post-settlement peace-building(adopted on 15 October 1997);
  • Regulation of the situation in the Chechen republic - implement confidence-building measures and develop realistic solutions for the resolution of the vitally important problems of the Chechen republic; implementation of agreements on payment of pensions and benefits; restoration of the economic and social sphere; demilitarisation; strengthening of law enforcement; fighting crime and protection of human rights and freedoms in the Chechen republic; creation of the special joint commissions on the allocation of financial and other material resources; liberation of illegally detained persons or hostages (both military and civilian); involvement of representatives of other North Caucasian subjects in the negotiation process; involvement of authoritative political and religious leaders, ethnic and social movements, and the representatives of the Chechen diaspora in the negotiation process.

The Concept paper has a number of objectives to strengthen and develop federalist relations in the region. It focuses primarily on the importance of the efficient use of political and legal instruments on the basis of the Russian constitution and laws and the laws of the North Caucasian subjects of the Russian Federation. In order to realise this task, the Concept paper includes suggestions for the following measures:

a) to correct and update the federal and regional legal norms, and to regulate power-sharing between the federal centre and the north Caucasian subjects of the Russian Federation;

b) to arrange meetings between the highest federal authorities and the authorities of the North Caucasian subjects;

c) to conduct an analysis of the political and legal basis of the relations between the Federal centre and the North Caucasian subjects of the Russian Federation;

d) to prepare mutually acceptable joint declarations and appeals to the population of the North Caucasus based on the results of the meetings between the President of Russian Federation and North Caucasian participants.

Another important policy direction is support for small ethnic groups and minorities through the law on national-cultural autonomy passed in 1996. The law states that social organisations created by ethnic minorities or small groups may represent the respective minorities in their interaction with the federal government and legislative bodies, particularly in so far as the protection of their cultural rights and needs are concerned.

Law enforcement bodies play an important role in ensuring effective federal rule in the regions. One of the main policy objectives of the federal government is better co-ordination for an efficient and unified law enforcement structures. The necessary pre-requisite for the development of common security is the ongoing co-operation between federal and local power structures in the sphere of law enforcement and crime-fighting.

The present doctrine of the Russian federal policy in the North Caucasian region acknowledges the lack of a sharply defined and effectively functioning mechanism for decision-making and implementation concerning the North Caucasus. Existing federal structures often duplicate their efforts. The instruments for interaction with the regional authorities are also quite weak. Political parties and social organisations are clearly underestimated and underused as possible resources for management, particularly in terms of conflict prevention and resolution.

The federal government has tentatively proposed the creation of a federal management structure to co-ordinate and regulate the implementation of state policy in the region. In this context, the following proposals were formulated in the Concept paper of the State Policy:

a) Creation of a State Commission on the North Caucasus headed by the first deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation with a mandate to co-ordinate the activities of the federal power structures;

b) Creation of territorial units in the Ministry for Federal Affairs and Nationalities on all subjects of the federation in the North Caucasus;

c) Establishment of a system by a representative board of key federal actors to develop policy options and recommendations for the executive and legislative branches; the Council of the heads of the North Caucasian subjects of the Russian Federation and the North Caucasian inter-parliamentary assembly with participation of the deputies of the federal assembly and the parliaments of the North Caucasian subjects could represent the key elements of this system.

The Concept paper outlines the following conflict resolution and prevention measures:

a) A more active and effective utilisation of conflict prevention and conflict resolution instruments such as people's diplomacy (meetings and councils of elders, woman's and youth organisations, and ethnic, religious and other non-governmental organisations). Regular organisation of such meetings in the form of the North Caucasian round table;

b) The creation of a state system to monitor the ethnopolitical situation in the North Caucasus, which would work in close co-operation with academic and social organisations. This system, once provided with the necessary financial, informational and technical support, may perform the functions of early warning and prognosis of possible conflicts, formulation and implementation of urgent response measures for conflict prevention using all the resources available to the state and civil society including co-operation with mass media. This system should function in close co-operation with the power structures at all levels.

Serious aggravation of the situation in Daghestan and generally in the North Caucasus in summer 1999 impeded the adoption of this new Russian federal policy in the North Caucasus. The character of the new violent conflict and the spread of terrorism beyond the territory of the North Caucasus has led to the significant changes in federal and regional policy towards the region. The use of military instruments and hard political pressure has moved to the foreground of Russian federal policy in the North Caucasus. There have been attacks against the bases of the terrorists and extremists on the territory of Chechnya. Measures were also taken to limit the activities of the extremist religious organisations and movements (i.e. the law banning the Wahhabi movement was passed in Daghestan). Following the decision by Boris Yeltsin, former Russian President, an anti-terrorist centre is being created. This Centre will operate mostly in the North Caucasus. A "cordon sanitaire" is being set up along the border with Chechnya. Economic pressure is being put on the Chechen government and population. These measures have already led to the emergence of approximately 60,000 internally displaced persons, who have fled from Chechnya to the Ingush republic. The Khasavyurt agreements have been partially lifted.

The new crisis does not affect essential doctrinal principles. In principle, the federal authorities are not open to military action against the population of Chechnya, as this would result in engagement in a new war. Issues of humanitarian assistance and co-operation are not addressed in depth. The federal authorities are prepared to engage in political and other types of negotiations with the government of Chechnya. A meeting between the Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov and the leaders of other North Caucasian republics was under discussion as well as the possibility of a meeting between Yeltsin and Maskhadov. In the meantime on 2 October 1999, former head of the government Vladimir Putin, endorsed the initiative of Moscow-based Chechens to reconstitute this body as the ‘only legitimate power authority elected in accordance with the election law of the Russian Federation’. The Moscow-based Chechens are members of the former Supreme Council of Chechen Republic which was dissolved in 1996. Recognition of this body marks a serious shift in the Russian federal government position that previously recognised the Maskhadov government as legitimate representatives.

3.1 The system of governance

The main governmental structure responsible for elaborating policy towards the North Caucasus and focusing on the crisis situation in the region is the Security Council (SC) headed by the President of the Russian Federation. The SC’s decisions serve as the basis for the preparation of the corresponding presidential decrees. The SC itself can only adopt the policy directives, as its status is not defined in the country’s constitution. The SC includes the heads of the so called "force agencies" (such as the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Federal Security Service, Ministry of Defence) and the chairmen of both the lower and upper chambers of the Russian Parliament (the State Duma and the Council of the Federation) as well as other governmental agencies.

The Security Council is also responsible for the preparation of policy documents. It includes the policy directive adopted in April 1999, "The basis for the state nationality policy in the North Caucasus" which has been endorsed by a presidential decree. This document is confidential due to a number of military issues that it tackles. The Security Council is rarely convened with a so called "complete composition" (e.g. chaired by the president with the speakers of both the State Duma and the Council of Federation present). Normally, the sessions of the Security Council are held in a manner of the so called "narrow circle", e.g. without the President and the Chairmen of Parliament’s chambers.

The decisions and policy directives adopted during the sessions provide mandatory policy directions for the presidential administration and the government. These decisions are executed, controlled and co-ordinated by the Security Council’s staff. One of the deputy secretaries of the Security Council is supervising the issues related to the North Caucasus. The functions of the Secretary of the SC are:

a) defining agenda issues and timing for the discussions on crisis situations;

b) preparation of SC meetings including the provision of background information and draft documentation;

c) control for the implementation of the Security Council’s decisions (overseeing Security Council’s staff) and co-ordination of other key actors’ activities in conflict management.

The State Commission on socio-economic development of the North Caucasus, headed by the Prime-Minister, is another supreme authority engaged in formulation and implementation of the policy towards the North Caucasus and functioning on the inter-agency basis. This commission was expected to receive a wider mandate that would allow it to control the whole range of issues connected with the North Caucasus but the plan was abandoned due to the present crisis and the difficulties associated with reframing the commission to make it fully effective.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for co-ordination and supervision of the foreign policy implications of the situation in the North Caucasus. The range of issues within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is tackled by the Department facilitating the foreign relations of the Federation subjects (headed by A.Urnov). Other agencies in charge of aspects of foreign policy in the North Caucasus include the Service for External Intelligence and the Ministry on the CIS. For instance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs implemented a number of diplomatic actions in relation to the Transcaucasian countries in connection with the continuing transit of fighting resources through Georgia and Azerbaijan to Chechnya.

3.2 Presidential Administration

The Administrative department of the President of the Russian Federation holds weekly working meetings chaired by the head of the administration (Alexander Voloshin) with participation by the Secretary of the Security Council. The decisions made during these meetings concern operational issues and are executed by one of the deputy heads of the presidential administration (presently, Igor Shabdurasulov) and the head of the Territorial Department (presently, Alexander Samoilov). The territorial department has a unit on the North Caucasus. Individual issues are discussed at the working meetings jointly with the representatives from the ministries and the staff of the Security Council.

There are no crisis or conflict prevention units and services within the Presidential Administration. Nevertheless, the remodelled Kremlin premises include a so called ‘white room’ - a crisis management centre equipped with the latest computer and communication facilities. However, neither the Daghestan-Chechnya war, nor the recent Karachay-Cherkess crisis were managed with the use of modern methodologies of expert analysis and a more sophisticated decision-making process. A substantial part of this process is confidential and is not available for public scrutiny. This creates conditions for a relatively high probability of mistakes in making choices between the different options.

There is also a tendency to delegate more authority, responsibility and resources to the Ministry of Defence and General Chief of Staff, Genshtab, to execute military operations in conflict zones of the North Caucasus. Vladimir Putin, former head of government stated on 1 October 1999 after federal troops occupied positions on the territory of Chechnya, "It is not my concern to follow where and how the military moves there. That is all a territory of the Russian Federation. There is no need to pass any federal laws". Since August 1999, the Ministry of Defence received 2,5 billion roubles additionally from the budget for military operations in the North Caucasus.

3.3 Federal Assembly (Russian Parliament)

The Federal Assembly includes the representatives of the North Caucasus both at the level of deputies in the State Duma (lower chamber) and at the level of the heads of republics, krai (regions) and oblast (smaller territorial units) in the Council of Federation (upper chamber). In the Council of Federation, V. Kokov, one of the deputy speakers is also a representative of the North Caucasus and the president of the Kabardin-Balkar Republic. In the State Duma - the deputy speaker M. Gutzeriev (of ethnic Ingush origin) is responsible for interaction with the state structures and social movements dealing with the problems of the North Caucasus. The Federal Assembly has neither a special committee on the North Caucasus (although a proposal to create such a committee has been made), nor a committee dealing with issue of conflicts. The only structure within the parliament dealing with issues of the North Caucasus is the Committee on nationalities. The Committee is headed by V. Zorin of the NDR faction propagating the concept of "Our Home is Russia".

4. OVERVIEW OF INSTITUTIONS AND REGIONAL STRUCTURES

4.1 Government Institutions

The Central Staff of the government includes a Department on regional development, which in turn has a territorial Unit on interaction with the subjects of the North Caucasus. The unit is headed by A. Nechuyatov.

From a general structure of the Russian government, the Ministry on Federal Affairs and Nationalities of the Russian Federation (Ministry on nationalities) is one of the most prominent state actors responsible for inter-ethnic relations in Russia’s republics, including conflict prevention and resolution. B. Khamchiev, Deputy Minister is responsible for direction in the North Caucasus. He supervises the activities of the 18-member Department of the North Caucasus with four units, headed by A. Emelyanenko. The Department of the Crisis Situations headed by V. Podolin, is another unit within the Ministry involved in conflict early warning, prevention and resolution. Following a directive from the Security Council, a Department on Border Co-operation is being created. Its area of responsibilities will also include conflict prevention and resolution activities. This department may play an important role in the creation of an inter-agency state system of ethnopolitical monitoring.

The Ministry of Finance jointly with the Ministry of Economy are in charge of the economic policy towards the North Caucasus. The issues on the North Caucasus are supervised by the deputy finance minister Bushmin and the deputy minister of economy Tsikanov. The ministries are also responsible for the funding of the state programmes in the region. There are no special articles devoted to the conflict prevention and resolution in the state budget of the Russian Federation, apart from the article on the resolution of economic problems in the Chechen republic. The ‘Chechen budget-line’ of the federal budget has been mainly used to support life-sustaining activities, such as pensions, salaries for teachers and doctors, child subsidies. Of 1,5 million roubles allocated for these purposes in 1999, only 476 thousand were transferred until August when new hostilities started.

The Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation are among other federal structures of power which can sometimes play a significant role in dealing with conflict situations. For example, the Constitutional Court considered cases such as the conflict of the disputed territories between Ossetians and the Ingush in 1993 and the case on the infringement of the election rights of the Ingush refugees during the elections in the North Ossetia (1995). In 1993, the Constitutional court has managed to settle a conflict between the Supreme Soviet of the Kabaradin-Balkar Republic and the Supreme court of the Russian Federation over the law on judges that was passed in the Kabardin-Balkar republic.

In 1998, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Federal Security Service and the Tax Police of Russia have launched large scale co-ordinated operations to clamp down on organised crime. A number of inter-agency task forces were created at the request of the regional and local authorities. For example, in Daghestan under supervision of the deputy minister for internal affairs V. Kolesnikov, such groups were working actively in co-operation with the republican law enforcement bodies. These operations resulted in the filing of dozens of criminal law suits and arrests of a number of corrupt highly placed officials.

Due to the deteriorating situation in the North Caucasus, the Defence Ministry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are more actively involved in the region. A special regiment was called into the region following a government decision and an order by the Commander of the 58th army and the group "West" under major-general V. Shamanov. The border with Chechnya and the Chechen airspace were closed. 13,000 federal troops were deployed in the regions neighbouring Chechnya, consisting mostly of regiments of the regular army units of the Defence Ministry. The troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs are deployed along the border with Chechnya forming a "cordon sanitaire".

4.2 Pan-regional Administrative and Economic Structures

During the Soviet and post-Soviet period, there were no administrative structures that were responsible for the whole geographical area of the North Caucasus. Exceptions to this are the the short period of the "North Caucasian krai" administration (in 1920-30s) and the North Caucasian Sovnarhoz [The Soviet (Council) on People’s Economy, an administrative and economic pan-regional administration.] (1950-60s). At present, the only surviving element of the pan-regional administration is the principle of economic region-based planning. According to this principle, the North Caucasus is regarded as a separate economic area. This sub-division, however, exists only for the purposes of strategic territorial development planning and statistical accountability.

In 1990, an association for socio-economic co-operation of the republics, krais, and oblasts of the North Caucasus was created. It is referred to as the Association "North Caucasus" and includes the region of Kalmykia. From the viewpoint of the federal centre, this association performs the function of expressing the interests of the North Caucasian regions before the federal power structures, serving also as a conductor of the federal interests in the North Caucasus. In its current state, however, it is unable to play an active role because of the lack of effective leverage and due to the contradictions between the heads of the local federal subjects, especially between the so called "Russian" and "non-Russian" or "national" regions.

Mr. Teplikov, Executive Director of the "North Caucasus" Association, stated at an interview in the headquarters of the Association in Rostov on 7 September 1999, that a strong position aimed to go "beyond economics" and to include in its priorities "bringing peace to North Caucasus through economics". The Association developed a number of regional programmes on transportation, energy resources, food production, where bringing in employment and investments is viewed as the main strategy for preventing conflicts. Members of the "North Caucasus" association participated together with the Northern Caucasus Center of Higher Education in a State Program on Socio-Economic Development in the North Caucasus. The Northern Caucasus Center of Higher Education is headed by Yuri Zhdanov and also based in Rostov. Both institutions were official governmental contractors for developing this programme. Yuri Zhdanov recognised in an interview on 8 September 1999, "we had to do this job based largely on our enthusiasm. The money for the elaboration of the programme arrived from the Ministry of Nationalities (official government sponsor) in an amount ten times less than we had expected".

The draft Programme includes serious proposals not only on economic, but also on socio-cultural and institutional mechanisms for conflict prevention in the region. Nevertheless, the preliminary reading of this document leaves the impression that emotional approaches are still dominant among political and expert communities in the North Caucasus.

Pan-regional or super-regional structures exist only at the federal level and exclusively within the so called "force agencies". The Defence Ministry, for example, includes a North Caucasian military okrug (military territorial division). The Ministry of Internal Affairs also has a North Caucasian okrug. The Attorney-general and Prosecutor’s Office also includes a territorial unit that encompasses the whole of the North Caucasus. The Ministry of nationalities created a Territorial unit on the North Caucasus in 1996. The office of the Territorial unit, headed by L. Khoperskaia, is located in Rostov-on-Don and has four staff-members.

The Representatives of the President of the Russian Federation is another supra-regional institution which is playing an increasingly important role in the North Caucasus. It is a network introduced from 1991 when the presidential representatives were appointed in Krasnodar and Stavropol krais and in Rostov-on-Don oblast. During the crisis in Kabardin-Balkar and Chechen-Ingush republics in 1992, attempts were also made to appoint such representatives. However, the positions of the presidential representatives were abolished after the heads of these republics were elected and the situation became more stable. In May 1999, I. Golubev was appointed as Presidential representative amidst the acute political crisis and aggravation of the inter-ethnic tensions in the Karachay-Cherkess republic. As the crisis unfolded, the position of the temporary head of the republic was created. V. Vlasov is currently in this position.

A similar federal conflict prevention instrument was identified after the settlement of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict in autumn 1992. A temporary governing administration was created on the territory of the two republics where a state of emergency was declared. This temporary power structure was transformed into the Temporary state committee on liquidation of the consequences of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict in 1995. This committee is part of the federal government and its chairman used to be a member of the government. In September 1996, the Temporary committee was abolished and an office of the presidential representative in North Ossetia and Ingushetia was set up. The office is currently headed by A. Kulakovsky.

Until recently, a similar system of representation also affected Chechnya. There is a Russian government representative’s office in Chechnya, based in Mozdok (North Ossetia). The office is largely responsible for the socio-economic issues. In Chechnya itself, there is a Presidential Representative office in Grozny with staff consisting of ethnic Chechens.

At the Russian federal level, all the North Caucasian republics have their high commissions (Representatives’ Offices) attached to the President of the Russian Federation, and the Representatives’ Offices of the smaller territorial units (krais and oblasts), attached to the Government of the Russian Federation.

5. ENTRY POINTS FOR COOPERATION

From the details given above, the government of the Russian Federation appears as a system of ministries, committees, commissions and task force groups of which none have a primary mandate for conflict prevention and resolution. On the other hand, almost all the key ministries participate in inter-agency co-operation frameworks that include a range of issues related to conflict prevention and conflict resolution. The activities of the inter-agency commissions are based on the informational, organisational and financial support of the participating ministries and other governmental units. However, a number of agencies are not sufficiently resourced, particularly in terms of ensuring access to high quality analytical information and organisational technologies.

Institutions with decision-making powers towards the Caucasus region are the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Administration of the President of the Russian Federation and other critical units such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in relation to the Transcaucasus) and the Ministry for the Federal Affairs and Nationalities (in relation to the North Caucasus). As far as conflict prevention and conflict resolution are concerned, the Security Council plays a key role in the process. It is critical, therefore, to identify where and how these federal bodies may draw from the available external expertise to improve their capacities for a more pro-active approach to conflict prevention.

Within the framework of available open sources of information for the study, the following issues were analysed to determine the potential for co-operation of external actors:

a) Models of early warning and prevention of conflict currently in place;

b) Decision-making system and organisational principles;

c) Information processing technologies and telecommunications background;

d) Possible opportunities and willingness for resource-sharing;

e) Predictive capacity and previous successes in early warning;

f) Failures in early warning;

g) Deficiencies of organisational structure and information flows (possible impediments);

h) Peculiarities of inter-organisational and inter-personal relations;

i) Relations with external political actors and media.

The potential for co-operation in the following new directions has also been analysed:

a) Public outreach strategies (constancy and contributions for television programmes, radio broadcasts, newspaper articles based on focused and profile interviews, newsletter dissemination among third-sector organisations, workshops, press-conferences, public hearings, etc.);

b) Conflict prevention projects organised jointly with local, national and international businesses (stake-holders in regional disputes of all kinds);

c) Development of educational programmes and curricula to positively influence the situation on a longer-term basis and create a "multiplication" and "replication" effects, by means of training the trainers;

d) Cyberspace expansion and "virtual diplomacy" (especially through the creation of resource packs and conflict-relevant data-bases available on-line, reflecting pro-active approaches to conflict resolution);

e) Policy relevant academic research (basic and applied) and specially commissioned expert assessments and studies.

5.1 Prospects and recommendations for governmental actors

Despite the geopolitical rivalries and struggle among state actors for influence in the Caucasus, the role of geopolitics should not, as such, be overestimated. It represents only one side of the complex interaction of interests of numerous stakeholders, including the internal actors and the corporate sector. The interests of powerful transnational corporations, especially the oil companies, do not always coincide with the interests of the respective states (or at least the states, where these companies have their head offices). The actions of some critical actors do not seem to be controlled by any states at all. Terrorism, trafficking of drugs and weapons as well as other forms of dangerous criminal activities are becoming increasingly internationalised in the region.

Different agencies at the Russian federal level are responding to these challenges by developing a coherent and well co-ordinated inter-agency cooperation strategy. .The main elements of this strategy are the following:

a) creating and providing incentives for the foreign capital investments in the North Caucasus in such areas as pipelines construction, oil refineries, Russian Caspian oil resources development, reconstruction and development of Russian sea ports in the Black and Caspian seas;

b) activisation of Russia’s participation in TRACECA with a maximum utilisation of the transit potential of the southern Russian territories; development of the local transportation, communication and tourism infrastructure;

c) promotion of projects additional to TRACECA, or as part of TRACECA, on the development of new transitory routes on the territory of Russia;

d) inclusion of the southern Russian territories in development projects within the frameworks of the Black sea cooperation schemes;

The following directions in inter-state relations are considered to be of major significance:

a) revival of close partnership with Georgia, avoiding any kind of interference in Georgia’s internal affairs;

b) activisation of the efforts directed towards the final settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict;

c) resolution of practical issues connected with the problem of the divided peoples on the Russia-Azerbaijani border and, most importantly, the Lezgin problem;

d) provision of assistance to the Georgian-Abkhaz dialogue with one of the main interim goals being to reach an agreement on re-opening the North-South transportation routes through the territory of Abkhazia;

e) regulation of the remaining border problems with Georgia and Azerbaijan, development of the effective border and security cooperation with these countries (especially on their northern borders);

f) further strengthening of the Russia-Armenian ties;

g) development of the dialogue with the South Caucasian countries on a nongovernmental level.

An important priority of the Russian government is to institutionalise the political dialogue with Turkey, creating a permanent consultation framework. The aim is to establish a mutual strategic understanding that would exclude interference in internal affairs. A prospective consultation framework is envisaged as a fairly inclusive inter-agency initiative with regular dialogue between the army general headquarters of the two countries. Simultaneously, a more regular political exchange is promoted with Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

These measures constitute a complex new policy direction aimed at establishing a peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation with Islamic countries and overcoming past misunderstandings. An example is the exchange with the "Islamic conference".

5.2 The areas of possible synergy with external non-governmental actors

By its very nature, conflict early warning and prevention is connected by a web of political interest that may seriously affect the realisation of any initiatives in this field. Differing and, at times, antagonistic attitudes on the part of various regional actors to critical issues should be considered, as well as a number of sensitivities in dealing with the federal and local government.

More importantly, the Russian government is particularly sensitive to any exclusive alliance-building in the North Caucasus even in the non-governmental sphere. The initiative on pan-Caucasian dialogue and co-operation at the level of civil society institutions excluded the NGOs from the so called "Russian" and Cossacks regions (such as Stavropol, Rostov) that are considered part of the North Caucasus. Such initiatives may only consolidate the neo-imperialist agendas of the political elite and radical groupings. It is important to facilitate the bridge-building in the case of existing inter-state, inter-ethnic and inter-group divides by widening the representation of different groups in policy formulation. This approach also relates to the co-operation projects in the Transcaucasian region and throughout the so called Southern Tier.

An analysis of the existing web of complex political interests, appears to be a subject for a more in-depth assessment. However, the following operational methods and peculiarities of attitudes may be singled out as of particular importance to the non-governmental actors:

Catalysing factors:

a) Presence of powerful interests to facilitate the utilisation of the external sources of emergency relief, developmental assistance and humanitarian aid;

b) Demand and interest among the middle rank officials at the regional and federal level to receive external assistance in early warning, conflict prevention and conflict resolution technologies;

c) Willingness to accept the representatives of the local ethnic groups, acting in the capacity of independent experts affiliated with international organisations. Trust and acknowledgement of their ability to provide local knowledge about the peculiarities of the situation on the ground;

d) Existing openness to assimilation of networking management techniques and transfer of expertise between the international and local level;

Impediments:

a) The response measures are almost always limited to institution-building (creation of the new commissions and re-defining the status of the existing ones). There is a lack of the standard procedures for early action, based on previous experience. The strategy development is not sufficiently systematic and well-informed that results in a large number of erratic and inconsistent decisions made under time pressure.

b) The inter-agency Commissions lack a mechanism for ensuring sufficient funding and access to the budget-lines if the crisis situations unfolds quickly but does not constitute a large scale disaster with implications for national security. In this case, the inter-agency commissions may only suggest the corresponding expenditure to be budgeted for the next financial year.

c) Lack of efficiency in the system of information base management, aggravated by a strong hierarchical structure, the lack of bottom-up input and dependency on the personality-affected decision-making procedure;

d) Low responsibility for the analysis and recommendations produced on the part of the experts, commissioned by the governmental bodies, coupled with low remuneration;

e) Relatively protracted periods for response to warnings (over 6 months);

The following policy areas have been identified as having great potential for possible co-operation with external actors such as international organisations, academic institutions and local NGOs:

  • The problem of refugees, IDPs and forced migrants. Co-operation in increasing preparedness to the humanitarian disaster in the North Caucasus that may be caused by re-emergence of violent conflicts; tackling the longer term and structural problems by such instruments as the job-creation schemes and community development projects. (Utilisation of non-state funding sources such as Russian and international non-governmental organisations; creation of the legal and financial conditions for the realisation of the entrepreneurs’ initiatives in developing the job market for the refugees).
  • Promoting tolerance of the religious, cultural and linguistic differences, development of the dialogue between peoples, ethnic, religious and cultural groups and between individuals co-operation in developing a range of awareness raising measures.
  • Promoting "people's diplomacy" (meetings and councils of elders, women and youth organisations, ethnic, religious and other nongovernmental organisations. Regular organisation of such meetings in the form of the North Caucasian "round table" transfer of expertise in facilitation of meetings and implementation of the confidence building measures; fund-raising for the local NGOs engaged in post-settlement peace-building, conflict resolution, conflict prevention and early warning;
  • Creation of the state system for the monitoring of ethnopolitical situation in the Caucasus, working in close co-operation with the academic and social organisations. This system, provided with the necessary financial, informational and technical support, may provide early warning and prognosis of possible conflicts, formulation and implementation of urgent response measures for conflict prevention using all the resources available to the state and civil society including the co-operation with mass media. This system should function in close co-operation with the power structures at all levels transfer of expertise in the development of early warning and monitoring systems, training of experts in networking technologies, reporting formats, models of conflict and peace indicators; quantitative methodologies (such as computer-based models), information exchange and corroboration assistance (such as access to the international news-wire analysis, www-based databases).
  • Basic research programmes on conflict relevant factors. The development of research programmes that would tackle the structural conflict-generating factors and identify the longer term opportunities for sustainable peace. Independent external expertise is required to complement the efforts of the experts commissioned by the government; external fund-raising efforts should be undertaken to ensure that an in-depth and adequately resourced research is successfully carried out and reliable policy recommendations are elaborated.

6. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

a) The Russian government should consider the possibility of the creation of a permanent consultation framework. The overall objective of such a framework would be to utilise the external expertise and available financial resources, particularly at the international level. This consultation framework will help in identifying mechanisms and instruments for a rapid response to humanitarian crisis and potential conflict situations in the Caucasus. A list of international and regional non-governmental organisations that can become part of such a consultation framework should be drawn up and working consultations initiated as part of the rapid response to the possible new crises in the North Caucasus.

b) The Russian government should co-operate with the local, regional and international nongovernmental organisations and academic institutions in the sphere of public awareness raising through press and television. The range of critical issues that need to be made part of the awareness raising programme include: (a) inter-ethnic tolerance and respect; (b) stability and peace as pre-requisites to economic development and well-being; (c) dividends of peaceful co-existence vs. costs of conflict; (d) ethno-cultural autonomies and cultural exchange as a peaceful alternative to aggressive separatism and extremism.

c) Russian foreign policy agencies should pay more attention to developing multi-level exchanges with Turkey. Such an exchange could take the form of building an inter-agency consultation framework with governmental, corporate and civil society actors in this country. The first step in this direction is to engage in track one and “track 1 and ½” initiatives on regional security and the Chechen crisis.

d) Russian governmental agencies should consider the widening of the border cooperation framework now underway. Border security issues discussed presently with Georgia and Azerbaijan could be included in the overall border security agenda. This may be regarded as a first step for a productive inter-state cooperation in the South Caucasus, including the Georgia-Abkhaz issue. In this context, it is also necessary to develop a cooperation and consultation process with European Union and the Council of Europe.

e) An integrated North and South Caucasus early warning and early response system should be created based on cooperation between non-governmental monitors, local as well as the federal and regional state authorities. The creation of this network is already underway, but it may be optimised and accelerated if such agencies as UN OCHA, UNHCR, Norwegian and Danish Refugee Councils as well as other major international organisations involved in the Caucasus combine their resources drawing on the existing local capacities for early warning and response. It is feasible that an integrated early warning and response system in the Caucasus will have direct access to national and local television channels providing a permanent source of independent analytical information to the wide audience.

FEWER
Forum on Early Warning and Early Response
FEWER Secretariat
1 Glyn Street, London SE11 5HT, UK
Phone +44.171.793 8383
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email: secretariat@fewer.org