Is Chechnya's Kadyrov really 'dreaming' of quitting?

Ramzan Kadyrov, the wilful leader of Russia's southern Chechen republic, is talking about standing down. He says it is his "dream". However, if past practise is anything to go by, this does not mean for a minute that he is contemplating retirement at 41, or even relinquishing his ruthless grip on what has become his virtual personal fiefdom. Instead, this likely means that Kadyrov wants something - and that in itself tells us about the state of Russia today, " writes Mark Galeotti in his opinion piece for Al Jazeera.

Interviewed on state-owned Rossiya-1 TV channel on November 26, Kadyrov said that "there was a time when people like me were needed to fight, to establish order," but "now we have order." Although he held back from announcing his resignation, he added that were Moscow to be looking for a successor, there were "several people who can do the job perfectly".

The irony is that many in Moscow would agree. Kadyrov is mistrusted and despised by many within the elite, including the heads of most of the security apparata. The former rebel who changed sides to fight for Russia during the second Chechen war of 1999-2009 has created a de facto independence beyond the dreams of many of the rebels. The local security forces - the so-called "Kadyrovtsy" - may wear Russian uniforms, but they swear an oath of allegiance to Kadyrov. He picks and chooses all the local officials. And, best of all, from his point of view, he gets Moscow to pay for it. Federal subsidies account for more than 80 percent of Chechnya's budget.

The issue is not just that Kadyrov is wilful and enjoys the good life on Moscow's rubble - his extravagances include a private zoo and a $1.4m Lamborghini Reventon supercar, one of only 20 ever made - but also that he so often flouts the rules outside his own republic. Many Russians assume he was behind the embarrassing 2015 murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov literally under the walls of the Kremlin.

Back in February 2016, Kadyrov made a show of reluctance to stand for re-election, musing that he might simply want to be a common soldier fighting Russia's wars. Of course, he did stand again and won another five-year term as a local leader against no serious opposition.

 But the important thing was that he forced Moscow to contemplate life without him. Russian movers and shakers may despise Kadyrov and be embarrassed by this unsophisticated, thuggish figure whose antics range from Instagramming prolifically to punishing underperforming ministers with a drubbing in the boxing ring.

However, they are also terrified by the thought of another Chechen war, especially now that they are so heavily committed in Syria and Ukraine. The common belief is that given the extent to which all Chechen power structures have been colonised by people related or beholden to Kadyrov - even its representative to parliament in Moscow is his cousin, Adam Delimkhanov - then the loss of Kadyrov would destabilise Chechnya.

What destabilises Chechnya would likely also destabilise the whole North Caucasus region, where corruption, maladministration and economic hardship is creating a serious terrorist and insurgent challenge. A classified report from the National Guard has suggested that in such case, some 100,000 National Guardsmen and another 50,000 troops from the regular army would need to be deployed.

As a result, even Kadyrov's most bitter critics see him as the lesser evil. Putin appears to tolerate him, and the head of the National Guard, General Viktor Zolotov, is his best ally in Moscow. Otherwise, Kadyrov has no real friends in the capital. So long as most of them fear chaos more than Kadyrov, though, he is safe.

But what does Kadyrov want? ... Read the full article here.

Dr Mark Galeotti is the IIR Senior Researcher, the Co-ordinator of the Centre for European Security of the IIR as well as an internationally recognized expert on transnational organized crime, security issues and modern Russia.