With news that the dead bombing suspect is named Tamerlan Tsarnaev and, along with another suspect, his brother, is believed to be from Chechnya, the question naturally arises: what do Chechen — presumably separatists — have against the United States? Hasn’t their beef always been against Russia?

It’s well documented how brutal Russia’s prosecution of the first and second Chechen wars were. Chechens responded with savagery in kind: the 1999 bombings of a shopping arcade and apartment building in Moscow, the 2002 seizure of Moscow’s Dubrovka Theate, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis.

Chechen militants have fought alongside al-Qaeda and the Taliban and possibly vice-versa. In Chechnya: From Nationalism to Jihad (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), James Hughes sheds some light on possible reasons that Chechen separatists might attack the United States:

U.S. criticism of Russian policy in Chechnya intensified in the first six months of the [George H.W.] Bush presidency. [But the] 9/11 attacks led to a complete reversal of U.S. policy on Chechnya. This was partly a moral revulsion against the associations between some Chechen rebels and al-Qaida, and partly a concession by the U.S. to secure Russian support for its campaign against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2002 and for the war in Iraq in 2003. … After 9/11, Putin’s framing of Chechnya as part of the “global war on terror” has been incorporated into Western policy approaches to Chechnya, and Chechen groups and leaders have been placed on the U.S. and UN lists of terrorist organizations.

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