In the years following the end of the Cold War, Russia found itself bogged down in a brutal separatist conflict in the North Caucasus region. From December 1994 until August 1996 Russia fought in Chechnya in a desperate attempt to keep the resource rich republic from seceding. The war ended in a stalemate with the Chechen’s maintaining a de facto independence from Russia. In August 1999 the Russians launched a full-scale invasion of Chechnya, ending Chechen independence. What followed in the aftermath of the Second Chechen War was a drawn out insurgency.
Today Chechnya remains a hotbed of Islamic extremism. The Chechen insurgency saw the rise of terrorism in Russia, with Chechen terrorists targeting both military and civilian locations throughout Russia, Chechnya, and the surround Caucasus region. On 7 October 2007 the Caucasus Emirate (successor to the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria) announced they would no longer pursue a secession of Chechnya from Russia, and would instead focus on a terror campaign against Russia and all non-Muslim nations around the world.
With the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the terror group has seen an increase in volunteers from Chechnya and the North Caucasus region. Russia has recently intervened on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria, targeting ISIS and other separatist groups vying for control of the country. The increase of Russian involvement in Syria may lead to further terrorist acts from Chechnya that could culminate in a Third Chechen War. Russia has been supporting the civil wars in Ukraine and Syria, and should terrorists spark another uprising, or increase terror activity in Russia from Chechnya, the Russians may find themselves overextended in combating the threat.
Future conflict with the Chechens, whether in suppressing another secessionist movement, or destroying a terror threat, will be determined by the effective use of asymmetrical warfare. The heavy handed response from both the First and Second Chechen Wars did little to deter the Chechens. In fact, the aggressive approach by the Russians fueled a terrorist uprising which led to the disasters of the Moscow theater hostage crisis in 2002 and the Beslan school massacre in 2004. The asymmetrical approach will require Russia to eradicate the support for the terrorists in Chechnya and the North Caucasus region. Like the British approach during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), the Russians will need the aid of the locals to divert resources and recruits from the Chechen terrorist organizations. Whether the Russians can do this peacefully will determine the future outcome.