Footnote about unsubstantiated claims about U.S. support for Chechnya
There is no evidence the U.S. supported Chechen separatist groups. The U.S. did not recognize Chechen independence and supported a “political settlement.” Official U.S. policy stated:
We seek a political settlement that will end the fighting, promote reconciliation, and recognize the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. We also seek accountability for human rights abuses committed by all sides and unimpeded access to the displaced by humanitarian organizations.
A common claim used to demonstrate U.S. support for Chechnya relates to a Stinger missile.
A think tank based in Moscow mentioned a Stinger missile obtained by Chechnya from Afghanistan. The U.S. had provided these to the Mujahideen. The founding members of the Taliban came from the Mujahideen, a group that had resisted the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan with covert help from the CIA. Not all members of the Mujahideen went on to become the Taliban, and the reasons for this progression are complex and not easily simplified.
The Taliban’s relationship with Chechnya further suggests the origin of Afghanistan as the Stinger missile. The Taliban recognized Chechen independence in 2000, and Russia accused the Taliban of supporting Chechen separatists. Thus, this seems the most probable explanation for how the Chechens came to possess a Stinger missile, as the U.S. did not even recognize Chechen independence.
Still, the belief that the U.S. armed separatists may partially explain another part of Putin’s methodology. Russia also attempts to co-opt the language of NATO to legitimize its actions.
(1) Russia Monitor. (2019, May 9). Russian GRU Agents Found Guilty of Attempted Montenegro Coup. Warsaw Institute. https://warsawinstitute.org/russian-gru-agents-found-guilty-attempted-montenegro-coup/ (2) Gordon, M. (1999). Imitating NATO: A Script Is Adapted for Chechnya. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/28/world/imitating-nato-a-script-is-adapted-for-chechnya.html
(3) Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a group based in Moscow, reported of the Stinger missiles: “…a Stinger has a service life of two years and the United States long ago stopped their deliveries to Afghanistan from where Chechen rebels received them.”
Pashin, A. (2000). Russian Army Operations and Weaponry During Second Military Campaign in Chechnya. Moscow Defense Brief. https://web.archive.org/web/20140501050127/http:/mdb.cast.ru/mdb/3-2002/ac/raowdsmcc/ (4) The CIA attempted to buy back these missiles. Presumably, they were unable to recover all of them.
Schemtzer, U. (1992). CIA trying to buy back missiles given to Afghans. Chicago Tribune. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1992-12-06-9204210095-story.html