Kupchan, Deputy coordinator of U.S. assistance to the New Independent States at the U.S. Department of State, 2000
[Clifford., The Washington Quarterly-“Devolution Drives Russian Reform” Spring, http://www.twq.com/spring00/232kupchan.pdf ]
In the Russian case, devolution has had a generally positive effect on reform. It has produced some of the expected general effects of devolution, plus some beneficial effects unique to the political process in Russia. Devolution has promoted institutions that enhance pluralism and check central power, increased political freedoms, and strengthened civil society. Given Russia’s long authoritarian history, these are not small achievements. The flow of power to Russia’s regions (and to a lesser extent, its cities) has promoted diverse regional interests and checks on central power in four different areas. First, democratically elected governors have been effective at articulating regional interests. By law, all of Russia’s governors had to stand for election by the end of 1996; many gubernatorial elections will occur again in the year 2000. The elections produced stronger, legitimized governors who often oppose the government’s policies and are an alternative repository of power. Second, mechanisms to represent regional interests in Russia’s parliament have helped check the center. Each of the governors automatically receives a seat in the Federation Council (upper house), which is a bastion of regional interests. Also, regional governors played a key role in the December 1999 Duma elections (lower house). Candidates backed by strong governors generally did well. As a result, the new Duma is likely to be more regionally oriented. Third, the governors and Moscow have negotiated an ad hoc form of federalism which succeeds in channeling regional demands to Moscow and balancing the interests of both sides. Forty-six regions now have bilateral accords with the central government. To be sure, some regions have negotiated more favorable economic arrangements than others. While a more standardized format for federal relations would be preferable, this asymmetric system has the virtue that it basically works. Finally, devolution has in certain cases led to the empowerment of mayors. Strong mayors serve as a check on both regional and central power. This trend is especially encouraging because the mayors tend to be younger and more reform-minded. Mayor Sergei Zhilkin of Togliatti, who is committed to educating his younger constituents in business skills, is a good example of a reform-oriented mayor whose power serves to balance other levels of government. Taken together, these four trends promote democracy by institutionalizing the expression of regional interests and checks on central power. Structural checks impede the rebirth of authoritarianism and leave the political arena open for a variety of pluralist interests to grow. Given the weakness of the central government, it will be a very long time before any Russian president will be able to reverse these gains. Moreover, since devolution has been a primary agent in weakening the authoritarian state, it has helped create and protect “political space” in Russia. Basic freedoms essential to democracy, and unheard of in the Soviet Union only eight years ago, are now virtually taken for granted. Examples include ready access to the Internet, unrestricted contacts with foreigners, freedom to travel, freedom of artistic expression, and increased—if incomplete—freedom of religion. Many Russian universities, including those in the regions, are centers of creative and spontaneous thought.3 Since devolution checks central power, and since the center is currently and is likely to continue to be very weak, this political space will be very difficult to take away.
Russian Federalism Good: Terrorism
A weak Russian state leads to instability and terrorist attacks
Stoner-Weiss, associate director of research and senior research scholar at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, 2006 [Kathryn-, Journal of Democracy “Russia: Authoritarianism Without Authority”, Vol. 17 Iss 1, pg. 104]
Boris Yeltsin tried to make the bricks of democracy without the straw of accountability. Equally futile is Vladimir Putin's project of building authoritarianism without authority. The horrific ordeals of Beslan and Nalchik have shown that, without functioning political and administrative institutions which heighten accountability between central and local government actors, a weakly institutionalized authoritarian state may be less able than even an imperfect democracy to provide the Russian people with reasonable political stability and enhanced personal security.
A weak Russian state leads to instability and is a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalist
Hahn, visiting scholar with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, 2003 [Gordon M. “The Past, Present, And Future Of The Russian Federal State” Summer 2003 Vol. 11, Iss. 3] Second, although it is now recognized that numerous Chechen field commanders and political leaders have ties to al Qaeda, there is evidence that Chechens and Tatars are closer allies than previously thought. According to Richard Kashapov, the leader of the more radical Chally branch of the TPC, there were at one time two units of some seven hundred Tatars each fighting alongside the Chechens against Russian forces. Third, the TPC was indundated by numerous volunteers (according to some reports, hundreds) who wanted help in getting to Afghanistan to participate in the Taliban's post-11 September jihad against the United States. When three Russian citizens turned up among those being detained at Guantanamo in January for their alleged participation in Taliban and al Qaeda activities against the United States, it emerged that two were ethnic Tatars and two were residents of Bashkortostan. The other is a resident of the North Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. Fourth, there is some evidence that since 11 September, the more radical wing of Russian Islam, under the Council of Mufties of Russia, strengthened its position in Tatarstan, overcoming TsDUM's previous hegemony there.4 Fifth, militancy may be spreading among Russia's Muslim youth. Recent reports from Ufa and Moscow claimed that the Union of Bashkir Youth engages its members in military-style combat training activities, culminating in a loyalty oath to Bashkortostan. According to Kommersant on 31 May, the Union of Bashkir Youth criticized President Rakhimov for being too passive in his relations with Moscow and demanded a constitution that provided for radical sovereignty, including the right to secede. This underscores the connection between the federative reforms' assault on the national republics' autonomy and the possible emergence of radical, even militant Muslim nationalist forces.