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JSPES, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Summer 2010)
pp. 224-241

Weapons Traffic in Russia’s Caucasus

Stephen R. Bowers

Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia

Zaur Borov Nalchik


Kyle M. O’Neill

Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia

Since the first Chechen war of 1996, the Chechen conflict and – other violent clashes in the North Caucasus region – have been driven less by traditional nationalist-separatist motives and more by an adherence to radical Islam. The Moscow terrorist attacks in March, 2010, sparked renewed concern about spreading violence from the North Caucasus radical Islamic community. Corruption, drug addiction, extremism and terrorism fuel an illegal weapons traffic in the North Caucasus. Corruption in Russian military circles is an especially significant factor. Illegal weapons traffic in these regions is linked with both organized crime and terrorist activities. Most arms dealers are motivated primarily by profit rather than by a political agenda. There is a growing trade in components, products and substances used in the manufacturing of mass destruction weapons (chemical, biological and nuclear). Many of the most recent Russian weapons, such as the AN-94 assault rifle, have gone directly from the factory to the Caucasus arms bazaars. Chechen troops had the B-94 before it was issued to Russian soldiers. With increasing frequency counterfeit dollars are used for purchases. Weapons traffic in the Caucasus has a global reach that affects political stability and security all the way from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.