A rush-hour explosion in a Moscow subway station left nearly 40 people dead and at least 120 injured on Feb. 6. Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Chechen militants and — indirectly — international diplomats who have sought to force Russia to pursue a peaceful resolution to the Chechnya problem. With the exception of rhetoric, little will come of this event.
A suspected suicide bombing shook one of Moscow's busiest — and deepest — subway terminals on Feb. 6. The blast at the Avtozavodskaya station killed nearly 40 people and injured at least 120 more. Russian President Vladimir Putin was quick to levy blame, saying he was certain that Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov was connected to the attack. Maskhadov denied involvement. Putin also suggested that some in the international community were culpable due to efforts to force Moscow to pursue peace in the embattled republic. Sources tell STRATFOR that Putin will use this bombing, the recent history of Chechen attacks and the current trend of international support for the separatists to step up his rhetoric. However, sources indicate that there is little the Russian government will or can do to increase the intensity of operations against Chechen militants. This most recent chapter in the Chechen conflict has been raging since 1999, and there is nothing the Russian military can do that it has not already tried. A day before the bombing, a faction in the European Parliament voted to back a Chechen proposal to introduce U.N. peacekeepers to negotiate an end to the 5-year-old conflict. Putin sees this as tacit support of Chechen separatists and highlights it as a partial reason for the current conflict — saying that international calls for peace talks and attacks by Chechen militants appear to be "synchronized." U.S. President George W. Bush, on the other hand, has been overwhelmingly supportive of Russia's "war on terrorism" since Sept. 11, which points to an ongoing dichotomy in U.S.-European foreign policy. For many years the United States has given the Russians a blank check to carry out operations in Chechnya; Europe has preached restraint. This is due to European interest in the region and a political calculation by the United States to offer its support on Chechnya in exchange for Russian cooperation on a range of security issues.