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Chechnya's silent diplomacy in the Middle East

Russia is working to turn domestic challenges into opportunity.
A policeman wears a ring showing the Islamic symbol of the star and crescent, as the barrel of a rifle is seen in the background, in the Chechen village of Itum-Kale April 29, 2013. The naming of two Chechens, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings has put Chechnya - the former site of a bloody separatist insurgency - back on the world's front pages. Chechnya appears almost miraculously reborn. The streets have been rebuilt. Walls riddled with bullet holes are long gone.
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When it comes to the security of the Russian Caucasus, Chechnya is a buzzword. Traditionally in the spotlight are developments in the republic  and the personality of its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, and his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin; rarely on the radar of foreign experts and diplomats is the vibrant diplomacy Chechnya conducts in the Middle East. Although many inside Russia see this self-made foreign policy as a drift toward even more de facto independence, Chechnya’s activity in the region may breathe new life into Russia’s relations with many of the Middle Eastern states who don’t see eye to eye with Moscow.

The very phenomenon of direct outreach to the Muslim world is not a new thing in post-Soviet Chechen history. During the two wars (1993-1996 and 1999-2000), first separatist and then jihadist warlords found sympathy in Turkey and some Gulf states, where some are still harbored. With Putin's rise to the Russian presidency, Akhmat-Haji Kadyrov, the father of current Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and the former mufti of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, was elected the first president of Chechnya.

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