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The Second Chechen Campaign

 

Putin’s ascendancy demonstrated that Moscow was willing to use its massive military might to establish central control and repel any threats to its rule. Even as prime minister, Putin was given far-reaching control over defense, internal affairs, and security. Ostensibly, he received his vast prerogatives to provide effective leadership of the military operation against Chechen-based rebels following their invasion of Dagestan in August 1999. His leadership of the operation was the chief factor in his soaring ratings and allowed Putin to present himself as defender of the fatherland, determined fighter against terrorism, and war leader even before he became president. 

RECAPTURING GROZNY: 1999

Some commentators believe that, by presenting the war in the separatist region as a “counterterrorist operation,” Putin cynically used the brutal battle as a platform for his own political ambitions and a military vehicle for electoral victory. Some Russian journalists and politicians even suspect that the authorities might have had a hand in the mysterious apartment-block bombings, which were presented as “terrorist attacks” and used as the war’s ostensible justification.

There is no hard evidence either way, and Putin calls the very suggestion “immoral.” But the media’s exaggerated portrayal of the war as righteous self-defense against international Islamic terrorism certainly helped the obscure, newly appointed prime minister to gain rapidly in popularity. In a matter of weeks he won himself such unanimous support on the Chechen issue that any politician who dared to voice doubt about the war risked being branded a traitor.

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The Chechen Problem

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