Worry is rising over the risk of terrorism at Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics. Last week’s deadly attack on a hydroelectric station in Russia’s deep south only added to the concern. The number of attacks in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus was up 57 percent last year, and unlike the Chechen wars of 1994–2001, these killings have been the work of a bewildering array of rebel groups, some motivated by radical Islam but others by separatism or clan warfare.
The Kremlin keeps pouring money and firepower into the region, and it’s backfiring. In Chechnya and Dagestan, the human-rights group Memorial has reported a sickening history of nighttime kidnappings, rapes, and extrajudicial killings by -government-backed death squads. A senior police source in Dagestan says local clans, many of them linked to law enforcement, are encouraging the violence, seeking to bring down more chaos on rival clans. Somehow Moscow needs to break the cycle of violence—or face the possibility of trouble at the 2014 Games in Sochi, less than 200 miles from last week’s attack, in the foothills of the Caucasus.