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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Get to Root Of Caucasus Problem

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The raids by a group of armed rebels in Dagestan this week come as a stark reminder that the Kremlin's efforts to quell violent extremism in the North Caucasus are failing. Not only have the authorities failed to stem armed separatism in Chechnya, but they have also proved unable to prevent violence from spilling into neighboring republics. What's worse, natives of those republics have been joining an armed resistance once dominated by Chechens to stage attacks outside Chechnya.

These armed extremists, who once fought for Chechnya's independence, are increasingly focusing their efforts on trying to terrorize Russia into leaving the North Caucasus with the aim of establishing an Islamic state there. One of the strongest, if not earliest, signals of this shift in goals was the 1999 incursion into Dagestan. Back then, 2,000 fighters crossed over from Chechnya and seized five villages in what they proclaimed to be a holy war to establish a khalifat that would engulf both Dagestan and Chechnya.

It took federal forces, the police and local volunteers weeks to drive the rebels back into Chechnya with the help of warplanes and gunships. Shortly afterward, federal forces started the second Chechen campaign to pound the republic into submission.

With large-scale frontal battles more or less over, the Kremlin proceeded to first install a loyal administration, hold a referendum to confirm Chechnya's status as part of Russia and then stage a presidential election.

But the heavy-handed PR measures and the guns have failed to end -- and they will never end -- violence, which continues to spill over not only to neighboring republics but also to Moscow in the form of suicide bombings. This should come as no surprise since the authorities are continuing to focus on treating the symptoms rather than the causes of the malaise.

The North Caucasus republics are among the poorest and most densely populated of all Russian regions. Dagestan, for one, has become notorious for corruption, human rights abuses and oppression of the opposition under strongman Magomedali Magomedov, who seems to have struck a deal with the Kremlin that allows him to do what he pleases as long as he and his regime remain loyal. It is this malaise that breeds the violent extremists, and they are gradually integrating into the international web of religious terrorism.

So many young men and women in the North Caucasus have converted to radical Islam that it may be too late to root out extremism completely, even if the authorities were to mount an effort to improve their lives and protect their freedoms. But that doesn't mean the authorities should not try.